Carpenter bees suck


Carpenter bees pose almost no threat to humans at all.

Carpenter bees seldom sting.

Carpenter bees are not aggressive. Often, a carpenter bee preoccupied with something will not sting or flee when approached closely or even touched by a human, but merely raise one or two of its legs in the air instead.

Lies, lies, lies.

I’m telling you, carpenter bees do sting and it hurts like hell.

Last week I landed my third sting in as many years. The first carpenter bee zap came when I retrieved the mail and accidentally touched one trapped in our mailbox. The second one got caught in my shirt.

And last week I stepped on one that — inexplicably — was nestled among the dirty clothes by the washing machine. It stung my toe (yes, I was shuffling through the Mount Everest mound of dirty socks and shirts on the cellar floor.) For days my toe didn’t resemble a human digit, it looked like a sausage. (Riding boots and softball cleats do not readily accommodate sausages.)

I pulled up a few websites and at least one added the following annotation to the “bees are harmless” claim: male carpenter bees do not possess stingers; females can sting when disturbed and the sting is painful.

No kidding.

Martin has a theory as to why I’ve been targeted so many times: “You’re actually an alien and the bees can sense it and are trying to destroy you.”

It’s possible.

Recently I’ve identified another potential extra terrestrial who has suffered the carpenter bee’s wrath: my farrier. He’s been “bitten” and “yea, it hurts like hell.”

So consider this a public service announcement: beware the carpenter bee — at least the females. Fortunately, they can be easily “sexed” at a glance. Males have a patch of white or yellow on the face, and females do not.

You got that? Next time, if there’s any doubt, just cup the bee in your hand. If it delivers a searing sting, it’s a girl.



The Bee Tree

Tis the season of stings. The bees and their venomous relatives are celebrating a last hurrah — emerging from the earth, haunting the trees, hovering in the air.

At our neighbors’ house, the hornets drive the humming birds from their sugar-water feeders. Obviously the birds outsize the insects, but hornets are powerful intimidators.

Our wasps are also busily streaming from ground nests, seeking an unsuspecting ankle or a bare wrist resting against the tractor. They burst angrily from rust holes that spread in the metal tubing of the pasture gates.

This past weekend, I took Chance out for a rookie fox-hunting run. Not 10 minutes in, he bore the brunt of a dozen vengeful bees, enraged when hounds and horses treaded over a wooded nest. Once the attack was underway, we fled the forest for a bee-less corn field. But they kept after us. At home I picked stingers from the welts that pocked Chance’s neck and hindquarters.

And about a week ago, I discovered a massive haven of bee activity right beside the house. I heard the humming from an open window. Like the steady buzz of power lines or some far-off mower chewing grass.

But this hum originated close by, in the tree that hugs the porch and tops out next to our bathroom. I walked outside to investigate. Every branch shimmered with motion. The tree buzzed with life as bees lifted to the air, then dive-bombed the flowery clusters.
I reminded myself that they’re plain old bees. Not hostile hornets or defensive wasps. If I leave them alone, they’ll return the favor.

But it’s the sheer number — the cacophonous drone — that scares me.

I know what they can do.

Note Hadley parked to offer scale of tree. Toddler not harmed for this photo.
Even the bees don’t mess with The Barbarian.