Help me in the war of deadly insects in hot, humid, Houston weather.
April 28, 2008 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Will I survive against the carpenter bees?

I've been thinking about pursuing a hobby for a while. Today I bought a Rubik's cube (which I know I'll give up on in a few days, or wait until I actually can have time to google how to solve it) and a board game that I really can't play by myself, but has all kinds of cool "truth or myth" facts for me to read.

That being said, I've been looking around the internets (thanks Al Gore) and have encountered woodworking as a hobby/nice little "get away" from the daily battle that is depression/anxiety that I actually have some INTEREST in pursuing long-term. The problem is there are vicious man-eating carpenter (regular bumble) bees that live outside my dad's workshop in the wood and I'm utterly terrified of bees/wasps/etc.

Will I be able to survive if I'm working inside or will they form a coherent game plan and proceed to slaughter me?

If they are able to form a coherent game plan and disrupt my woodworking, do I simply spray them all and run until I kill them?


- Travis
posted by isoman2kx to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
My patio's wood railing is a favorite haunt of many many carpenter bees. In my experience they will bother you far less than any other kind of bee which isn't very much at all if you don't "bother" (read: attack) them.
posted by thatguyryan at 3:07 PM on April 28, 2008

Bumble bees? ISRT that an apiarist will take them off your hands for you. Important: IANAA.
posted by boo_radley at 3:11 PM on April 28, 2008

Carpenter Bees have no stingers. Although fearsome, they cannot slaughter you. (They wll bore holes in your woodworking, however.)

In college beekeeping class, we were taught that Bumble bees cannot sting either, although (as with all things bee) it seems the lay public often has trouble distinguishing bumblebees from honeybees -- and wasps, as well.

To many, if it stings, it's a "bee" (even if it's actually a wasp).
posted by Rash at 3:12 PM on April 28, 2008

Response by poster: Actually, according to my sources in the Kremlin. Female carpenter bees can sting, male carpenter bees cannot. How likely is it that the female bees will slaughter me?
posted by isoman2kx at 3:14 PM on April 28, 2008

I am a hobbyist apiarist, and I would gladly take a swarm of honeybees, but I'm not interested in your bumble bees.

Generally, if you leave bees alone, they'll leave you alone.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:15 PM on April 28, 2008

Even the females, which do have stingers, are seldom aggressive.
posted by rancidchickn at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2008

slight derail - but bumblebees can and will sting. I know this because I stepped on a hive hidden in tall grass. Per this page: Workers and the Queen can sting, and their stingers are un-barbed (and thus can repeat sting you - oh how well I know this.) - whereas the males lack stingers.
posted by Lizc at 3:43 PM on April 28, 2008

argh - should have previewed..
posted by Lizc at 3:43 PM on April 28, 2008

My limited experience with carpenters bees is that they generally don't come in swarms. They're a low-level nuisance but they're not like termites where if you see a few then it's too late. And they like damp, isolated wood where they chew in peace. They are not interested in your woodworking shop.
posted by GuyZero at 3:45 PM on April 28, 2008

1) You probably should take a photo of an example bee so you can have it positively identified. Try to have something else in the photo that's a known size, if possible, but that's not a requirement. Then see if you can send the photo to a local extension service for your county, or some other agency (or ask Metafilter) -- that will tell you the kind of bee you have.

2) For your own peace of mind, it might be good to get an allergy test to make sure you're not allergic to bee venom. If you're not, then you're in very minimal danger. If you are, it's a good thing to know anyway. Woodworking won't expose you to much more in the way of bee-related danger than that picnicking habit you may be considering, but it sounds like you could use this additional reassurance. If you are allergic, then the allergist can prescribe you emergency drugs to have with you.

3) If these are in fact carpenter bees, then they tend to be solitary (I believe; not a bee-ologist here, I just think they're kind of cool). They will tend to nest in the same area, especially if you have multiple generations of bees going on, but they probably don't have the "hive mind" of bees that actually, well, live in hives. They make individual burrows and hunt individually.

4) There are lots of articles about dealing with carpenter bee problems; there's no really easy solution, it seems. But once you've got your gumption up a little -- no rush -- you might want to look into starting in on getting rid of the bees, if they are indeed making little holes in your house or shed.
posted by amtho at 4:26 PM on April 28, 2008

I've found that carpenter bees don't do so well when they go up against, say, a tennis racket or a badminton racket.
posted by plinth at 4:56 PM on April 28, 2008

Carpenter bees are not bumblebees. Bumblebees have fuzzy, striped abdomens and do not chew wood. Carpenter bees have black, shiny abdomens and do chew wood. Both are quite relaxed compared to aggressive, territorial honeybees.

From an earlier version of the Wikipedia entry on carpenter bees:
Male eastern carpenter bees are curious and will investigate anyone, including humans, that comes near their nests. They do not have stingers and cannot cause any real harm.
Males spend many hours guarding their territory against other male bees, hovering about the nests for hours on sunny days. They sometimes attempt to mate with other insects or small birds.
An interesting trick to use to "move" a male carpenter bee out of the way is to pick up a small pebble (roughly the size of the bee), then toss it past the bee. They will attempt to chase it, distracting them for a few moments, long enough for a human to get by.

posted by Pallas Athena at 5:41 PM on April 28, 2008

vicious man-eating carpenter (regular bumble) bees

they are neither vicious, nor man eating, they are only wood eating. they don't sting. they are slow and easy to slaughter with a tennis racquet but frankly why bother. Hit their entry sites with poison, which itself need not be that toxic. Of all your issues with animal invaders, this is as minimal as it gets.
posted by caddis at 6:53 PM on April 28, 2008

Response by poster: Lol, I think some missed the boat about this post containing copious amounts of humor.

I was mainly just wondering about the stinging aspect and would my activity in the inside of my workshop bother them to the point of even the females attacking me.

I'm still figuring I'll be scared shitless when I hear that buzzing for the first time, but I'll try to remember if I don't go out of my way to bug them, they won't sting me.

Fortunately, I am also aware that they cannot possibly eat you.

C'mon people, depressed people have a sense of humor too :)
posted by isoman2kx at 7:55 PM on April 28, 2008

college beekeeping class? really rash?

to the question, as long as you don't flail about around them, you should be fine, especially if you're inside the workshop.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:13 AM on April 29, 2008

College beekeeping class? Really?

Yes, although I've yet to keep my own colony, there's five credits of Beekeeping (Intro and Advanced) on my university transcript. Additionally, I have a persistent carpenter bee out on my patio, which reappears every summer. I've tried sealing up the holes, but it keeps coming back.
posted by Rash at 3:13 PM on April 29, 2008

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