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Skaggs: Beware of bees looking for wood

POSTED: April 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, normally attracts quite a bit of attention in Georgia in the spring of the year.

Since it resembles the bumble bee, is quite large and attacks wood around homes, it can become an serious household and structural pest.

Adult carpenter bees are large - 1 inch or slightly longer - robust insects. They are blackish in color and possess yellowish hairs mostly on the thorax. The abdomen is shiny black and is bare of hairs on top. This helps distinguish carpenter bees from bumble bees, which are similar in size and coloration, but bumble bees have yellowish hairs on top of their abdomen.

Carpenter bees burrow into the exposed dry wood of buildings, telephone poles, fence posts, etc., causing an unsightly appearance to the wood and structural weakness. They usually choose wood that is soft and easy to work.

They seem to particularly prefer redwood, cypress, cedar, white pine and southern yellow pine. Other woods, even seasoned hardwoods, may be attacked if they have been softened by being unprotected and exposed to the weather for extended periods of time. Bare wood is preferred.

Carpenter bees usually avoid well-painted wood and wood with bark on it. Wood with a stain or light coat of paint can be attacked. Also, wood that has been lightly pressure treated with metallic salts for above ground use, such as for decks, could become infested.

Female carpenter bees seldom sting, but don't disturb or handle them - they can inflect a painful sting. Male carpenter bees cannot sting, but they often become aggressive and frighten people when they fly about their heads.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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