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Kyle’s News and Review’s In Agriculture

By Kyle Jeffreys

Several people have called over the last couple of weeks asking if it was to early to plant vegetables outside, meaning did I believe we were out of the danger of a frost.  I have always been cautious when advising on the weather and always will be, especially when a tomato plant is at stake.  

With that being said I hope no one had any freeze damage caused by the freeze on Monday morning.  I also believe that this will not be that last freeze we will have of the spring.  The old timers say that if it thunders in February it is going to freeze on the same day in April, I think it thundered in late February.

Last week I was out with a team of other Extension and USDA personnel accessing flood damage to agriculture fields caused by the flooding in late February.  We mainly were surveying property in Calhoun County, which had some severe damage caused by sand being deposited into fields.  The worst field that we visited had an estimated seven acres of ground covered two feet deep with silty sand deposits.  

Just to give a little perspective on how much that is, it would be roughly 1,500 dump truck loads of material to be hauled off. The bad thing about this spot was it was several hundred yards from the river bank and about a half mile off the road, so more than likely that farmer will just not plant this spot again.  It is amazing how much soil is moved in these flooding events.  

The Yalobusha County S.A.F.E.T.Y. program (formerly known as Shooting Sports) is in full swing now with practices being held almost daily.  I have the fortune of coaching two disciplines this year  – air pistol and .22 rifle.  The club will be hosting their county postal shoot on April 13th at 9 a.m. at the Coffeeville gun range.

The Coffeeville Saddle club will host a judged horse show April 6th at the Multi-purpose building in Coffeeville starting at noon. The 4-H horse club will provide a concession stand for the public.  Admission is free for the show and riding starts at noon. 

Now that the weather is warming up and the bees are more active, I have included a reference for control of Carpenter bees around the home from Extension Entomologist Blake Layton.

Carpenter Bees: Carpenter bees may look a lot like bumble bees, but they’re not. There are big differences in the biology and habits of these two groups of bees. In fact, they don’t even belong to the same entomological family. One of the most easily observed physical differences is that the top of the abdomen of carpenter bees is slick and shiny, while bumble bees are covered with black and white or yellow hairs. 

Also, carpenter bees nest in above ground wood galleries, while bumble bees nest in the ground. In the past 10 years the situation has gotten a bit more confusing because of the arrival of the giant resin bee. 

This non-native bee looks a lot like a carpenter bee but has a longer, more cylindrical body and a larger, more conspicuous head. Giant resin bees do not bore into wood, but they nest in holes, and they find old carpenter bee galleries to be just the right size. These bees are now occurred throughout the state but are relatively uncommon. 

Like carpenter bees, they are not aggressive, and stings are rare. Although there are other species of carpenter bees in the state, the eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, is by far the most common. The white-faced males are hard to miss because of their habit of buzzing about, hovering in mid-air, and occasionally hovering in one’s face. Some people feel threatened by this behavior, but the males are harmless because they have no sting. Many of us may remember playing with ‘white-faced bumble bees’ as children. 

Female carpenter bees can sting, but they are not aggressive, and do not sting unless forced to do so. Females are easily distinguished from males because their face is solid black, while the males have the distinct white spot in the middle of the face. 

Females also behave differently than males. They don’t have time for the idle buzzing and aerial acrobatics of the males. They spend their time boring nesting galleries, collecting pollen and nectar to provision the gallery, and laying eggs. Carpenter bees overwinter as adults inside their wood galleries and emerge in early spring. After the females of this generation finish boring galleries and laying eggs there will be a mid-summer lull in activity while the immature bees develop.  

Carpenter bees do not eat wood; they only use it for nesting. Carpenter bees congregate around favorable nesting locations, and females will reuse, and enlarge old galleries from year to year. Timbers can be weakened by the presence of multiple galleries, and galleries can also allow moisture to enter the wood and hasten decay. These are minor wood-boring pests, but, their cumulative damage can become significant in some situations. 

However, carpenter bees are also important pollinators and should only be controlled when necessary to prevent structural damage. 

Painted or sealed wood is seldom attacked by carpenter bees, so painting or sealing the wood surface is the best long-term solution for carpenter bees. Of course there are situations where the rustic look of unpainted wood is preferred and situations where it may not be practical to paint the exposed beams and rafters in barns, storage sheds, etc. 

When using paint to prevent carpenter bee attack, it is important for the paint or sealant coat to be thick enough to totally cover the wood grain. Simply staining the wood does not usually work. The bees will readily bore through paint as long as they can still ‘feel’ the wood grain. Vinyl or aluminum siding also will thwart carpenter bees. The most effective way to control carpenter bees with insecticides is to apply small amounts of insecticide dust directly into the galleries. The dust remains active in the galleries for many months and kills the bees as they come in contact with it.

This method literally gets them coming and going. Female bees are killed when they return to the gallery and newly hatched bees are killed. 

Dusts work better and last longer than liquid or aerosol treatments because they remain in the gallery where they will contact the bees, rather than soaking into the wood. 

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