In the last issue of this newspaper columnist Angie Brown complained that her house was “being eaten by bees,” carpenter bees. She said she would welcome any suggestions as to how to solve the problem. Carpenter bees occasionally attempt to raise their families in the framework of my deck. When a bee chews a hole about an inch or two deep, I use a pair of forceps to insert a cigarette butt into the hole and poke in a wad of cotton to keep the butt in place. After about five or six such treatments the bees decide to find another place to do their carpentry.
The nicotine in the cigarette butt does the trick. Nicotine is poisonous to most insects, and the compound nicotine sulfate was widely used as an insecticide before its use was discontinued quite a while ago. Try my method, Angie, and let me know if it works as well for you as it does for me.
Carpenter bees are not aggressive, and only the females have stingers. The sexes are easily distinguishable by the color of their faces. Females have black faces, and the males are white-faced.
* * *
On the subject of insects, the following should be of interest to my readers. A few years ago, Janie and I were in bed one evening reading. She exclaimed, “Ouch, something just stung me and it hurt like hell!” I located the culprit, and it resembled a giant yellow jacket, the likes of which I had never seen before. I killed it, and on the following day took it to Dr. Wayne Clark, our expert on insect identification.
“It’s a European hornet, Vespa crabro, and it probably hasn’t been in these parts for too many years. It’s the only hornet or wasp that’s attracted to light,” Clark told me.
That evening, Janie and I were again in bed, reading, and one of the damnable things nailed me. I’ve been stung by honeybees, bumblebees, red wasps, guinea wasps, yellowjackets, and even scorpions, but the pain I suffered from this sting was far worse than any I had felt before. The next night I turned on the deck light adjacent to the glass door and saw dozens of the hornets swarming around the light.
The next day I saw them entering and leaving an aperture in the chimney rocks, in which they obviously had established a colony. I bought a can of “wasp-hornet spray,” and on three consecutive nights I turned on the light, cracked open the door, and sprayed the swarming hornets. Problem solved.
The ones that stung Janie and me had entered the house when I opened the door to the deck after dark, which I do every evening to relieve myself, listen to frogs and owls and smoke my night-time cigarette.
But I now realize that I must be on guard, because just a few days ago, I saw an exceptionally large individual of the species, which I assume was a queen, exploring a crevice between the chimney and the wood paneling. I sprayed the crevice with insect repellent and haven’t seen it (her) since. I shall, however, continue to be watchful.
According to Google, European hornets prefer to locate in or near forested areas and establish colonies in tree cavities and in wall voids. They are not aggressive unless stepped on, grabbed, mashed or defending their colonies. An account provided by the Arkansas Arthropod Museum states that one study reports that the extremely painful sting is three times more likely to cause dangerous reactions in allergic individuals than stings of honeybees or yellowjackets.
* * *
I encourage people who sincerely believe that the Bible correctly reveals God’s attitude toward the Earth’s plant and animal life to read I Kings 4:29 – 34, which in part states, “God gave Solomon wisdom and great understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon spake of trees, the cedar of Lebanon, and the hyssop that grows out of the walls. He spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things and of fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.”
Solomon was not only wise in the ways of women, having kept a thousand wives happy, but he was worldly wise as well, as proven by his being the leading environmentalist of his time.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He is also co-chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.