Beware of the Buzz in your Backyard
Stinging insects love my south Etobicoke home this year. I found carpenter bees burrowing into our wood porch rails, the number of dead bald-faced hornets in my backyard is six and counting (not sure what’s killing them), and wasps are buzzing around everywhere, which makes eating outside not much fun.
But why are these pesky buzzing bugs invading my yard?
Here’s what I’ve gleaned.
These bees feed on plant pollen and nectar; however, that’s not why they’re attracted to your home. They’re looking for wood, not to eat but to build their nests. They do so by tunnelling perfectly circular holes into wood, leaving a tell-tale pile of sawdust behind. (Hence, their name.)
Carpenter bees’ preferred wood is usually bare, weathered, unpainted surfaces or softwoods like redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. They can burrow into any wooden structure – decks, fences, outdoor furniture, siding, wooden window trim — and can cause extensive damage. Depending on the amount, some structures may become unstable and in danger of collapsing.
Carpenter bees look like bumble bees but their ‘bums’ are smooth and shiny black. Only female carpenter bees have a stinger; however, they are not known to be aggressive like their male counterparts.
These aggressive insects dine on insects and plant nectar, but fruits and sodas will also attract them.
The most obvious signs of a hornet problem are presence of adults and nests. During the time that nests are being built, it is common to see hornets scraping away a thin layer of wood from a wooden fence, an old log or the side of an unpainted wooden building.
Hornets overwinter in tree bark and rotten logs, but the most likely place to find their nests is on the branches of trees and large outdoor, tree-like shrubs.
Wasps are drawn to the alluring smell of plants and flowers, and outdoor eating areas prone to crumbs and spills. Properties with garbage, uncovered trash bins, an abundance of other insects and spiders also attract wasps seeking food sources.
Although it depends on the wasp species — there are tens of thousands — yellow jackets generally nest in eaves, soffits, gutters, voids, bushes, branches and along fences.
There are also ground-nesters whose colonies can be found under steps, in sidewalk cracks or at the base of trees.
Some yellow jackets build aerial nests in bushes, low-hanging branches or in the corners of buildings and other manmade structures.