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Carpenter bees already hard at work for spring

How does that old adage go? "April showers bring May flowers." We may not be having the showers of April that we would like, but we are getting the carpenter bees. And like the many calls I have received this week about bees boring holes in "my" wood, I have had to deal with them boring through the wood of my patio umbrella.

How can one tell if it is a carpenter bee or bumblebee? From first glance one might think when did bumblebees start eating wood? Well, bumblebees and carpenter bees almost look identical, but if you are lucky enough to get close to one you will see the one difference -- carpenter bees possess a shiny abdomen with no hairs on top.

Which one stings, male or female? If you are unfortunate enough to be stung by a carpenter bee, it is because you have disturbed or were trying to prevent her from boring that prefect round hole into wood. Males cannot sting, but they will protect the female by aggressively going after humans.

So what type of wood are they after? They prefer bare wood that has been exposed to the weather for extended periods of time. Carpenter bees seem to have a taste for California redwood, cypress, cedar white and southern yellow pine, and hardwoods that have also been exposed to the weather for extended periods of time. Stained wood and woods used for outdoor, above-ground use (lightly pressure treated with metallic salts) can also come under attack.

What are the control measures? Ideally, it would be wood-free structures. However, since that is not the case, they can be controlled by spraying the bee, spraying the wood or painting the wood.

Visit the pesticide aisle for aerosol sprays labeled for flying insects that include bees. The sprays, if directly applied, will kill the bees. Now, if these bees are out of reach or to help protect you, invest in one of the sprays that can be sprayed from 20 or 25 feet away.

Spraying wood surfaces or nests with a pyrethroid is another method of control. Products with the active ingredient permethrin, cyfluthrin or deltramentrin are labeled for the control of carpenter bees. Wait a several days after spraying before you plug the holes with something like dowel rods, putty or some other material.

Finally, the carpenter bees may be trying to tell you that it is time for a fresh coat of paint paint. Usually, they tend to avoid freshly painted wood with oil-based or latex paint, as well as pressure treated wood.

For additional information about carpenter bees or other flying insects, please contact me at morganjl@uga.edu or 2436-7216.

James Morgan is the Urban Horticulture County Extension Agent who works at the Dougherty County Cooperative Extension Office in Albany and can be reached at (229) 436-7216 or morganjl@uga.edu. Visit the Extension Web site at www.ugaextension.com/dougherty.