Problems with "the birds and the bees"...any advice?

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pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Problems with "the birds and the bees"...any advice?

Sorry, I couldn't resist the title!

Ok, so first the problem with the birds.  I have a small orchard of apple, pear and cherry trees that I planted over the last 5 or so years, and FINALLY had an apple tree that was producing apples (I think I need to better nourish the soil to get better production, but that's another problem for another time).  I have been anxiously, happily, expectantly watching the 14 or so apples grow and mature, looking forward to finally starting to reap the rewards of all that work.  But last week when I went to check on my apples, I found that almost all of them had big gaping chunks taken out of them!  One had ants crawling in it, but it looked more like they were taking advantage of the situation than having caused it.  I talked to my next-door neighbor, who also has an apple tree, and he said they'd seen birds in their tree, eating the apples!  They had apples last year, so this was new to have the birds ruining them.  Has anybody else run into this situation before, and any ideas on how to handle it?  I have heard of nets that you can put over trees/berries etc to keep away birds, but I can't imagine that is how bigger orchards keep birds away (or is it)?

Now for my problem with the bees.  Maybe a month ago, I noticed a bumblebee crawling into an opening between the cement landing outside my backdoor, and the wooden walls of the old storage garage attached to my house.  Then I saw another...  A couple weeks later, I checked a second floor balcony (a fire-escape exit more than anything), and what do I see but a hive-ish thing protruding from the floor, right above the area outside the backdoor where I saw them crawling in.  So apparently they've found a nice interior framework for building a hive or nest.  Greeaaaaaat....   So I have talked to a couple of people and have gotten suggestions from waging "chemical warfare" to calling someone to try to remove the hive.  I did some on-line research that suggests just waiting until winter, as the workers will die out.  But what I don't get about that is that if the queen(s) survive, won't I have this problem all over again next year?

So far the bumblebees have been pretty peaceful in their co-existence, but I can't say as I'm thrilled for us to be dodging bumblebees every time we go out the backdoor.  Not to mention our dogs, who think buzzing bees are something to try to chomp mid-air. (So far no stinging incidents, as far as I know!).  And I am concerned the problem could get worse if I let it go.  Has anyone else ever had to deal with bumblebees making a hive in/near our house?

Thanks!

Time2help's picture
Time2help
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Been there...

...done that. Had them in the attic one summer, wound up just leaving them there (given the troubles bees are having I couldn't bring myself to evict them). Turns out I don't think they cared for the heat in the attic.  Haven't seem them this summer at all, they've moved on.  Still lots of bumblebees out and about thought, no shortage locally here (PNW, near Seattle). 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Carpenter bees

Are you sure those are not carpenter bees?

bumble bee

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees can do structural damage to your house, worse than termites. If that's what you have, you need an exterminator muy pronto.

***

As to the birds, I always recommend a distraction of some sort. Anything from a feeder on the other side of the property--as far away from the apples as possible!--to something that fruits about when the apples do (like I distract birds from my strawberries with my simultaneously-fruiting mulberries.)

Eventually, there will be enough apples for you and the local wildlife. I don't get mad when the squirrels make off with a few strawberries now that we have such a huge crop. A few of the pears on my husband's family farm are bird-damaged but there are so darned many of the pears that you'd hardly notice. So hang in there. You can go to the trouble and expense of bird netting if you really want to, but the problem should sort itself out as the tree gets bigger and produces more fruit.

Time2help's picture
Time2help
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Definitely Bumbles

Big fat furry suckers. Thanks for the head's up though, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a carpenter bee, yikes! surprise

Tall's picture
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birds and bees

The usual predator of my apples is squirrels, not birds. I hope that this is an isolated incident for you and the impact will decrease as you get a larger crop.

Carpenter bees and bumblebees among others are pollinators in my orchard. My understanding is that the bore holes that carpenter bees produce are not major problems. I could be wrong. We killed them until we realized how much work they do for us. Now we leave them alone and are experiencing great pollination in the absence of honey bees. Of course, they are not the only wild pollinators at our place...

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_carpenter_bee

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pinecarr
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Carpenter bees?? Who knew?!!

Thanks for all the good input and advice, everybody! 

Carpenter bees??  Oh no!  Who knew there was such a thing?!  I tried to check for the spot on the back this morning, from the ones crawling on the 2nd floor balcony, but my eyes aren't good enough!surprise  It was like trying to read a book with my reading glasses on;  I kept moving in closer and closer....then I decided maybe I was getting too close!  I'll try again after work today.  What I can tell is that the size of the bees is smaller than what I usually associate with a bumblebee, and the abdomen is all black.  Yet I don't think the abdomen is a pointy as the pictures of the carpenter bee, and they do seem fuzzy.  So I'll have to get a better look for that spot on their backs.

Thanks for the advice re the birds as well... I like the idea of a distracting other food-source that matures at the same time, Wendy.  I'll have to see if mulberries can grow in zone 4/5.

 

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Oh crap!! ...big black circle on their backs

Oh crap!!  I did another quick look before work, and they definitely have a big black circle on their backs. 

earthwise's picture
earthwise
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Maybe not that bad.

pinecarr,

Check out the Wikipedia link that Tall provided on post #5. A couple of standout takeaways are that carpenter bees generally don't sting humans, the structural damage is minimal and that carpenter bees are great pollinators.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Not that bad?

Hi Earthwise-

   Yes, if they aren't that bad, I might consider leaving them (I was thinking the same way as you).  But other sites say that over time, the structural damage they cause can be bad.  So I'm not sure what to believe right now.   So I need to figure out where I can get the most reputable info, and go from there.

   Thanks!

   pinecarr

Time2help's picture
Time2help
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Another option...

You could also consider smoking them out.  Beekeeper supply places should have the necessary equipment, or maybe you could hire a Beekeeper to do it.  Just an idea. 

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Thanks Time2Help!

Thanks Time2Help!  I appreciate learning what options are available.

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Carpenter Bees
earthwise wrote:

pinecarr,

Check out the Wikipedia link that Tall provided on post #5. A couple of standout takeaways are that carpenter bees generally don't sting humans, the structural damage is minimal and that carpenter bees are great pollinators.

I've never had a problem with carpenter bees.  They can be easily identified because they are largely solitary, hover around their nest holes rather obsessively, and I like them because they hate wasps and prevent the paper-buggers from setting up on my eaves where I have to do something about them.

I could be wrong, but in my many years with them I never detected any structural issues.  They generally bore a single hole, with the grain, and that's that.

If you have a big nest, with a lot of bees, I would suspect they are regular bumbles.  Now those are a different matter.  If you leave them alone they are fine, but if you disturb their nest, watch out.  They have a pretty high tolerance to being disturbed, not like hornets (fer crying out loud, they are just mean, especially in august and September), but I've seen farmers that run over a ground nest with a brush hog have to bail from the tractor and run like hell 'cause the tractor doesn't move fast enough.

That's my $0.02.

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Wendy S. Delmater
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my experience w/ carpenter bees

Although all they have done at my house was drill a beautiful hole in the top of a shovel handle, my husband's family farm had an outbuilding structurally destroyed by carpenter bees. I saw the damage. Before they took down the structure, they had to get rid of the bees - and I believe they smoked them out. I will check.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Thanks Wendy and Chris.

Thanks Wendy and Chris. 

I'm pretty sure these are carpenter bees, because they have that distinctive black circle on their back (I have some dead ones on the 2nd floor fire escape, where the nest/hive or whatever it is protrudes, that I got a close look at).  And I had noticed right away that they were smaller than the bumblebees I was used to seeing, even before I knew about carpenter bees.  So I am pretty confident that is what they are. 

Thanks for sharing about the structural damage the carpenter bees did to your husband's family's farm, Wendy.  That kind of structural damage is my main concern right now.  I believe in "live and let live" where I can, but if there's the potential for that kind of damage, I need to do something about them.  I am torn, though, because I know they are  pollinators and are much needed given the plight of the honeybees.  So if anyone knows of any non-lethal ways to get rid of them, I'm all ears! 

 

 

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Probably NOT carpenter bees

Hi Pinecarr, Carpenter bees are MUCH bigger than bumblebees. They are also solitary bees, they do not live in groups.

You may have a bumblebee nest. There are many species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumblebee See: http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/native-bees/

"Bumble bees are the only bees native to the US that are truly social. They live in colonies, share the work, and have multiple, overlapping generations throughout the spring, summer, and fall. However, unlike the non-native, European honey bees, the bumble bee colony is seasonal. At the end of the summer only the fertilized queens survive to hibernate through the winter. In the spring, she will found a new nest that eventually may grow to include dozens of individuals (occasionally a couple of hundred)."

Bumblebees will leave your spot as soon as their life cycle is complete.

Please act conservatively, and do not destroy the nest. Our native pollinators need all the help they can get, and they will reward you with tireless pollination.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Hi Tall-   I wish these

Hi Tall-

   I wish these weren't carpenter bees, but I am pretty convinced they are.  If you check out the wiki link here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_carpenter_bee (and Wendy's pictures above), the bees I've got look JUST like that.  They look like bumble bees except for having:

- A pure black abdomen (not fuzzy)

- A distinctive black spot on yellow fuzzy back (thorax)

They have also left a mess one the 2nd floor balcony/fire escape floor (above the 1st floor where they crawl in) that looks very much like the picture at the wiki link, where it says: "The female bee pushes castings out of the entranceway and maintains the hibernaculum."

   I do hear you, though, in terms of being reluctant to kill pollinators if I don't have to.  I've researched and identified some potential natural ways to try to get them to leave.  Some alternative approaches I've read about include:

- Loud sound (# 4 under "Method 1 of 2: Actively Fighting and Exterminating Carpenter Bees") http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Carpenter-Bees

- Spraying affected areas with a citrus spray or almond oil, which they supposedly dislike (also from link above);

- Providing alternative soft wood blocks for them to nest in.

I've also identified some "non-toxic" ways to kill them, if it does come to that.  I am not thrilled to use some of the recommended toxic insecticides outside my back door, where they drill in, as my son and dogs go in and out that door all the time.  Some non-toxic ways of I've read of exterminating them include:

- Bee traps: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/191-5065409-6948263?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=carpenter%20bee%20traps&sprefix=carpenter+bee+trap%2Caps

- And more on bees traps: http://pestkill.org/insect/carpenter-bees/traps-to-control/#more-1872

- Diatomaceous Earth:  http://pestkill.org/insect/carpenter-bees/

"How do I get rid of carpenter bees naturally? I use this special powder that is made from fossilized diatom algae. It features microscopic sharp edges that normally cut the covering of insects. Sprinkle some of the solution into holes and nests after the bees leave them. After returning they are going to be covered with the powder and will soon die."

One thing some of the sources do say, though, is that if you don't disrupt the cycle, the bees won't really be gone for good.  I.e., it is not good enough to just eliminate the bees you see flying around; you also have to get rid of the larvae, and/or the bees produced by the larvae when they hatch weeks or months later.

   Sigh! :p

  

 

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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And the answer is...

Bumble bees!  I sent a couple of pictures of the bees and their nest to an entomologist, and got a "definitely bumble bees" response.

Chris said "If you have a big nest, with a lot of bees, I would suspect they are regular bumbles."

-You think I would know enough to listen to you by now?!!  

On the bright side, the entomologist made me feel good, telling me it was quite rare (-an honor, I inferred-:) to actually be able to see and watch a bumble bee nest.  And on the bright side for the bees, I feel less pressured to "get rid of them", since bumbles don't do the structural damage that I was concerned carpenter bees might do.  I've read that all but the new queen(s?) will die when the cold hits, and that the new queen will make a nest somewhere else.  So I could just leave them alone over the winter and hope for the best next spring.  Or maybe once the real cold hits, I can move the nest somewhere else...

Thanks for all the info, everyone. I think I'll go peek out the window and see what the bees are doing!

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Yay! Bumble Bees!

This is fantastic news. Glad you got a positive ID on the little critters.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Thanks Wendy!

Yep, I was really glad I was able to get a definitive ID from an entomologist. I really didn't know how to deal with the bees without knowing what I was dealing with first. 

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Dondigdon
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Carpenter bees (wood bees)

Carpenter bees (wood bees) are not the best neighbors of humankind. In late spring, they appear at our houses, frighten our children by their aggressive behavior, and – what is more important – destroy our premises. Thees insects generally drill holes in dead wooden logs, wooden structures, and even bamboo. Arter reading this http://stoppestinfo.com/96-carpenter-bee-trap.html article  I bought Chrisman Mill Farms Wood Bee Gone Carpenter Bee Trap. I can say truly - it's work. I recommend it to all!

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