Friday, May 27, 2011

CSB and the Carpenter Bees

Who ever wrote that “structural damage is generally minor or nonexistent” in the Wikipedia article about carpenter bees has not seen CSB on the roof with a badminton racquet. There is a reason gentlemen over 2 meters tall should not be roofers. Call it the tipping point. (But give them a lightweight racquet and they become weapons of mass destruction.)
Our carpenter bees, Xylocopa virginica, are larger than hummingbirds, hairier than woolly mammoths and just as annoying as the woodchuck in the vegetable garden. They make their nests by tunneling into wood, preferably the wood of our front porch, or the facia of the potting shed, or the underside of the shutters. Their tunneling technique – their large hairy bodies vibrate as they rasp their mandibles against the tender wood – results in telltale piles of sawdust falling to the ground and staining the clapboard. They also leave pollen skid marks under their tunnels. There is nothing subtle about a carpenter bee, or her depredations.
But what to do?
Years ago I was told to spray something toxic into the tunnels (assuming I could reach them) and then stuff in a wooden dowel (about 16 millimeters in diameter) to seal off the tunnel. My carpenter bees regarded this as afternoon tea. Recently it was suggested that we stuff steel wool into their excavations. But then the steel wool rusts and we end up with rust stains on the clapboard. There are also toxic bombs you can explode or drop onto the bees, and anything else in the vicinity, including the dogs, our own blessed honeybees, and us.
The ever-intrepid CSB has another technique. He swats the carpenter bees with a badminton racquet. I have tried this method with zero success, but he swears by it. In order to illustrate the potential deadliness of a swat with a badminton racquet, CSB points out that while the fastest a tennis ball has ever traveled is 156 mph, the fastest recorded shuttlecock speed was Fu Haifang’s 206 mph smash. On the lawn or the front porch this technique (Standing statue-still to ‘fool’ the bees, then lurching and swatting) may look silly but at least no human lives hang in the balance. This is not true on the roof, on the pitched roof, on the small pitched roof of the bay window.

The sport of badminton was invented in the 18th century by British officers stationed in Poona, India. Previous to these researches the only time I had every heard of Poona, or Pune, was as the venue of amazing erotic sculptures and reliefs, featuring the Hindu gods performing every manner of sex act you have ever heard of, and then some. * The game came back to England with the military, and was popular with the upper classes; think green lawns, long skirts, and shuttlecocks (“a feathered projectile with unique aerodynamic properties”). Until now, it has not been touted as a qualification for a career in extermination.

*And then upon further research I learned that I was completely wrong about that. How could I have been so mistaken? (The possibilities are myriad.) The famous erotic statues are in
some 735 miles from Pune. But if you want to associate the birthplace of badminton with artistic sex scenes, I think that would be lovely.


Mickey and Flea said...

Tell CSB to watch his back swing on the roof.

Christine Lehner said...

On behalf of Mary-Ann, because St. Stratosphere refuses to forgive [her] ongoing computer rage:

Our deck was taken over by carpenter bees so taking your advice, Charlie went out there with the closest thing we could come to a badminton raquet--a wiffle ball bat. As you can imagine, Charlie batted .000 but fortunately wasn't stung. Finally, I found the second-best implement--my tennis raquet--and in no time there were 12 corpses on the deck. I told my grandchildren how humane this was as "...they never knew what hit them."