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Carpenter bees outsmart salt gun, fall victim to tennis rackets

By Edward Forbes / The Bulletin

II have an unfinished pine bench (two seats with a table between them) that I purchased several years ago. It had since become an attraction for some Carpenter Bees.

They were fun to watch. The males have no stinger, look like bumble bees except they have a hairless abdomen and lack the distinctive yellow marking on abdomen.

The female of the species do have stingers, but the literature says they are not aggressive and almost have to be handled or provoked to sting.

They are quite large and fly like hummingbirds, but with an audible buzzing. They don’t eat wood, but tunnel into soft wood and lay a singular egg with pollen in sealed chambers.

These tunnels can be extensive and could cause damage to wooden structures. They are solitary creatures and winter in their tunnels. The male carpenter bee defends his territory determinedly. They posture. They charge at the offending carpenter bee, or whatever, and then hover there.

In their enthusiasm, they will collide, lay stunned for a few moments and then return to action. They would fly at us and then hover in place seeming to say “scared you, didn’t I.”

They were entertaining to watch when there were only two males posturing. When their number grew to around 10, vying for my wooden bench, the ladies (my daughter and daughter-in-law) declared them scary and dangerous.

Their order was for us to eliminate the carpenter bees.

I hated to do it for they are pollinators. I had purchased a Bug-A-Salt gun for my son to kill flies and yellow jackets. It is a rifle like device than shoots table salt and works great.

Except on carpenter bees.

We shot several and had direct hits than would knock them back 2 or 3 inches, but didn’t seem to hurt or phase them. It was time for a Google search.

The best suggestion was tennis rackets. I played tennis in my younger days and still had some rackets. I outfitted my son and grandson with rackets and the carpenter bee disposal began.

Interestingly, the carpenter bees were so busy in looking for competing bees they ignored the hunters, and their number gradually decreased. Success was ours.

I now have to treat their tunnels to prevent a spring hatching.

To bee or not to bee. It is not the question anymore.

(Send comments by email to editor John Toth at john.bulletin@gmail.com. Or send regular mail to The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX 77516)