With the addition of a new bathroom and laundry room to our house at the end of last year came a new deck for the backyard, too. Since it was built at the beginning of January we hadn’t gotten much use out of it until the last month or so. We’re slowing but surely cleaning off the winter’s worth of junk that started to pile up (including a dresser with no drawers — remember the under-bed drawer storage?) so we can really relax and enjoy the backyard.
That is, if we can get those darn bugs to leave us alone. With the new deck came a new problem — carpenter bees. These wood-boring pests look a lot like bumblebees, but are usually seen hovering around wood structures, especially newly built ones. While the male carpenter bees don’t have stingers, they do patrol the area around the nest while the females do their egg-laying deep inside a tunnel they’ve bored.
And what great borers they are. The pests will leave a perfectly round half-inch hole in any type of exposed wood. The giveaway is the pile of sawdust left behind — well, that and the constant buzzing around.
Our new deck was becoming an apartment complex for these buggers — upon inspection I found three nests. An Internet search led me to a DIY carpenter bee trap, which I constructed out of scrap wood in less than 30 minutes.
The trap features a wooden box with ½-inch holes drilled upward into it (to let minimal light into the interior). A soda bottle is attached to the bottom, with another ½-inch hole bored into the cap. The dark interior of the trap mimics a nest, but once inside the bees become confused and try to escape through the obvious light source — but instead get trapped inside the bottle.
I hung the trap near the porch, and then sprayed inside all three nests with Raid. The bees did not immediately die once escaping, but they wouldn’t re-enter the poisoned hole. I’m hoping they’ll just head for the trap instead.
The next line of defense against the carpenter bees will be painting the porch; the bees don’t like digging through that to get to the wood. A nice coat of white paint will match our house better anyway, and it’ll extend the life of the wood.
Bees aren’t the only pests in our yard — we’re also plagued by mosquitoes. Since I already had the scrap wood and tools ready, I went ahead and built a bat box too. We’ve seen these nocturnal wonders swooping (and feasting) around our house at dusk in summers past, and a bat house will only encourage more to move in (a single bat can eat up to 2,000 mosquitoes a night, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service). I used plans I found on the ACES website as a guide, but really just winged it, since I was using scrap wood. In fact, all the wood used in the bat house except for one piece is some original wood siding that was torn off the house when the new laundry was built. I didn’t worry too much about making it watertight, since I’m hanging it under the eaves of the “man shed” anyway. I also left the paint as-is, since bats don’t enjoy the new home smell as much as we humans.
The ideal spot for a bat house is 12-15 feet high on a building or tree, preferably in a place that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. They’ll sleep in the house all day, and start swooping through the sky around dusk — when the mosquitoes are most active, as well.