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21 05, 2018

Discouraging carpenter bees and evil spirits

By |2018-05-02T10:09:07-05:00May 21st, 2018|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

carpenter bee

We noticed lots of bees when we bought our house in the spring last year. Having never seen them before, the large black bodies hovering near our faces was scary. Beekeeper Brian assured us male carpenter bees were not aggressive and did not have stingers, but females would protect their nests.

Reminded us of the bears in Colorado. We had the same situation when bears came to visit every spring and fall. Bears were looking for food after a long hibernation in spring and bulking up for winter in the fall. Bees come looking for mates and a home.

We kept food sources secured in the spring and summer and the bears would visit and move on. Discouraging carpenter bees is not so easy.

Before we moved in, we had the house professionally treated, which meant sealing all the bored holes in the porch ceiling, eaves, and siding. Unlike termites, the bees don’t eat the wood they bore tunnels. Those tunnels weaken eaves, window trim, fascia boards, siding, wooden shakes, decks, and outdoor furniture. Not something a homeowner wants to happen.

We also painted the ceiling of our wrap-around porch blue after sealing fresh bee holes last fall.

Why blue? Two reasons. (1) Carpenter bees don’t like painted surfaces and (2) a blue ceiling is a southern tradition.

We didn’t use just any shade of blue. You used a specific shade of Haint blue, a soft blue green to ward off evil spirits called “haints,” a specific type of ghost or evil spirit from the Carolina coast, but also found in tales from various regions of the south.

So not only are we discouraging bees, we’re keeping evil spirits away. Always a good thing.

Our bee population this spring decreased dramatically. But a few are persistent about returning to their previous abodes.

Beekeeper Brian made carpenter bee catchers for us. Those seem to be doing an excellent job.

The one over the garage door is catching the most bees. You can see we failed to paint the garage eaves.

In the fall, we’ll seal the new holes so the bees can’t winter over in them and paint the eaves blue to discourage the bees from returning next spring.

We’ll never be completely free of carpenter bees. They are great pollinators so we wouldn’t want to be, but we do want to discourage them from destroying our house.

They’re welcome to visit, not live here.

14 05, 2018

The Return of the Hummingbirds

By |2018-05-02T09:48:52-05:00May 14th, 2018|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

One of the things we love about the house we bought on our return to Texas was the certification as a Wildlife Habitat House.

Maintaining that environment became our goal as we settled in. We had an unusually cold winter this year. Several days of temperatures below freezing are absolutely not a normal winter in Texas.

Neither are April days in the low 50 degree and high 40 degree range.

A few hardy birds and one or two hummingbirds stayed around, but most of our wildlife disappeared. It’s May and warmer temperatures have returned.

That means bullfrog serenades, cardinals and swallows swooping down and around in their mating dance, mosquitoes buzzing for prey. (Hate that part since I am major mosquito bait.)

Baby squirrels play chase one another and mama shimmies up the bird feeder pole to shake birdseed down to her babies.

Dogwoods, Japanese magnolias, peach trees are filled with blooms. Four o’clock plants are popping up and soon will be bursting with red flowers.

Our hummingbirds are back at the feeders in large numbers. We have five feeders around the yard. One or the other of them always needs refilling now.

Last year I worried that we’d lose our large population of hummingbirds when I started making their syrup instead of purchasing the commercial nectar as the previous owner did. This year it doesn’t seem to matter. I prepare hummingbird syrup at least twice a week.

Unfortunately, carpenter bees have also returned. More about these ugly critters next week.