April 04, 2016

Bees and Other Stinging Things

A few weeks ago I noticed some little mounds all over on little sloping area of the property near our driveway and mailbox.  I remember the previous owners mentioning something about ground bees.  Well, these are it.  They are categorized under miner bees and can be the metallic bees in the family Haliticidae or what these guys seem to be from the family Andrenidae...yes I'm a entomology nerd.

They are generally peaceful unless you really disrupt them but even walking through the area doesn't seem to bother them much.  I've had some land on me and watched them gather nectar and return to their little homes which are cute little mounds in dry earth.  After a couple months they die off and the larvae over winter to start the cycle again next year.  I'm happy with these tenants since they are in a perfectly harmless location and well....they are good little pollinators.

These are some pictures of the little guys foraging.

I love taking pictures of insects and really need to get a good macro lens so I can get closer crisp pictures.  

The picture below I call "Super Bee".  You can't even see her wings so she looks like she just needs a cape to fly around!  LOL.  So cute.  I enjoy having them!

One bee I do not enjoy is the carpenter bee, they are drilling holes in our porch, barn and run-in shed.  They can cause damage and the males that protect the nests dive bomb you like little assholes.  Luckily the boys don't sting but if they happen to be chasing a wasp away towards me I don't like the idea I could get in the way and have a wasp sting me.  Killing them isn't a solution, fixing the bare wood that they are attracted to should help.  That will be a fall project in addition to screening in the bottom of the porch since they are boring into the support structure we can't really get to.

Sure the front porch is rickety and needs to be replaced but we need it to last until we can do that.  When we do replace it we'll use materials that are not carpenter bee friendly.  There are traps that are supposed to help but the one we've made hasn't caught a single bee.  I'm switching to a deterrent game plan.  All I've read about bees and wasps is that orange and citrus oils are nasty to them.  I picked up some orange oil and am soaking the steps and other areas in the product.  It smells great!!!  Hopefully it will make the area unappealing to the bees and they will go elsewhere.

The barn is gonna need a major overhaul with painting done etc..  The bees are less likely to bore into painted wood but I've read that it's not always the case.  We'll try paint and the orange oil as well.  The best way to control them is to exclude them.  Make raw wood unavailable, make it unappealing (jury's out on whether orange oil or other home remedies will work) and set traps where activity is highest (haven't seen one trapped yet...).  It will be an on going battle for some time until we get it under control I'm sure.

Wasps are another thing.  We've removed countless old nests and the beginnings of several others.  I also picked up a fake wasp nest that says it should deter them from building a nest.  I think the wasps building their homes around here haven't read that product description since several have hung out in my hay shed right near the decoy.  Since I don't want to use wasp spray around the hay I have a long range bottle with apple cider vinegar.  I think I can shoot the wasp and when it falls down stomp on it or kill it with a long pole the hubby got me for this purpose.

I love bees and my hubby and I plan on raising honey bees next year. Aggressive and destructive critters around the house on the other hand are not my thing.  I mean if I had little butterflies making nests all over the place I wouldn't have an issue with them since they don't sting or destroy my house structure!  It's the stinging and protecting of nests that I don't like when I'm trying to care for my ponies.  Here's hoping the orange oil, decoys, traps and eventual painting of the wood will reduce the nesting habits on my house and barn so I can live in a less fear of stings!!

A general design using a router to make a mason bee house.  It can be taken apart and
cleaned to reduce the parasitic wasp and mite issues that are found in other designs
Oh another bee I've discovered is the Mason bee.  They go into preexisting holes to lay their eggs and then patch up the hole with mud.  They are not destructive and are very peaceful like the miners.  I've discovered that some are making a home in my lawn mower bagger.  Not the best place for them but I don't use it so I guess I'll just leave it alone until the new bees come out next year.  We also plan on making some Mason bee hotels so we can encourage these little pollinators.  I think I feel better helping out the less destructive pollinators while I try to deter the bullies and destroyers.  

I don't want to harm anything but I can't have my house getting bored into nor getting stung every time I try to feed my ponies!  Enjoy this cute video of the mason bees!  I was so close to them and they were very chill.

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