The carpenter bees are back. A few years ago I wrote the following piece about my near death experiencebattling the wood-eating pests. This year I am supplying my annual nesting cardinals with their remains for dinner. The brightly colored male stops by at the same time every evening to dine on the bees I managed to swat earlier in the day. He sometimes flies off with a morsel for his mate. I am now more careful with my technique as evidence from my following experience.
I was holding on only by the tips of my fingers on my left hand, fingernails digging into my newly stained top rail. My trembling knuckles were the color of a fresh iceberg newly released from winter’s icy grip. My tippy toes were searching for a solid purchase. My belly balanced on the top rail teetering back and forth on the edge of disaster. One ounce one way or the other would send me cartwheeling in mid-air to Earth surely breaking something. I could be killed.
I only missed by inches sending another flying monster to his doom. I had gone almost too far in this battle, a point of no return. As luck would have it, I recovered my balance. The only thing that saved me was my overextended follow- through with my right arm that brought my quivering body back into balance. I learned a quick lesson not to swing at flying insects leaning over the deck rail ten feet off the ground.
No, this isn’t a tall tale. It’s the plain truth, a part of my daily battle with the vicious horde of carpenter bees that have descended upon my deck.
I don’t kill honey or bumble bees. They are a valuable asset. Carpenter bees are another story altogether. They bore through wood, depleting structures, leaving sawdust piles, holes and poop residue. They are termites on steroids with jet engines. Insects with jaws of steel.
I researched ways to keep my deck safe from the wood-chomping predators but there is really no good technique, chemically, physically or otherwise. I declared war by hand.
I purchased a pair of imported badminton rackets, surprisingly from China. Puny fly swatters easily miss the flying chubby chompers. A badminton racket, light and fast, was my weapon of choice. I started keeping track of my kills, even placing the dead little fuzzy bodies on the top rail as decoys and as a warning to the other critters my deck was not a love nest.
Research told me the male carpenter bees don’t sting. They like to hover in front of your face as an intimidating defense daring you to get close. Females on the other hand can sting the dickens out of you. I sense the males are more stupid as they seem to be looking for love most of their day. There you go. It happens in nature, more evidence of male stupidity. Many with love on their minds have flown their last mission over my deck.
My neighbors must think I am crazy – slashing, forehanding, and backhanding invisible mid-air badminton birdies. Or they might wonder, “Why is that man grilling with a badminton racket?” I hope they will now understand my weird action and that I am not crazy. I also learned my lesson about dangling too far over the rail.
This year the little beasts are back and the hunting season has been good. My badminton weapons need replacing. They are bent with battle scars of missed shots. I’ve mentioned to Judy that I really need a squash racket. They have longer handles and as their name implies, they squash.