Is this egg-laying or something else?

  • #1
somegrue
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TL;DR Summary
Some sort of bee is crawling into holes in wooden furniture and eventually plugging them. What's going on? (With pictures.)
My apartment's balcony door is wide open more often than not. This time of year, that tends to mean that insects keep flying in and out. Most of them, or at least most of the ones that are large and/or loud enough for me to notice, are bee and wasp types. They behave quite differently from the bees and wasps I get later in the year - most strikingly, they totally ignore food, even when it's readily accessible, and instead seem to be interested in wood and fabric. My interpretation is that this is to do with nest-building or the like. A couple of years ago, one of them did indeed start building a nest inside the apartment, suspended below a wooden board. Fortunately, the nest was right in the open and I noticed and removed it before she got very far. That was a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_wasp, I think.

Some of the (furry) bee types seem to be particularly attracted to holes in wood, like those in the uprights of Lundia or Ikea's Ivar shelf systems. They carefully look for holes, investigate them, and if they decide they like them, start a routine alternating between doing something inside the hole and doing something else outside the apartment. Their flight paths get quite efficient, directly from the door to the hole, then directly back to the door, none of that buzzing around the room and across windows that they start with. They keep at this for hours and days on end, many times per hour. The end result is a plugged hole.

Pictures:

(The hole above the one in progress is already plugged. Sorry the quality isn't better, there's something in the way that's real tricky to move, so the camera is at a bit of an awkward angle and it's too dark to do without the flash.)

My uneducated guess is that behind the plug, there's an egg and some food, and that gathering that supply, and whatever the plug is made of, is why they need to do all that flying back and forth.

Does that seem likely? If so, does that mean that these are non-social bees of some sort - or maybe not bees at all, despite the furriness? (I'm in Germany, in case that narrows it down.) If not, what might be going on instead?

Last but nowhere near least, Is there any practical reason to worry about and so try and stop them doing this, like there very clearly was for the paper wasp nest?

Thanks for any insights! :)
 
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  • #2
Probably a nesting site.
Could be a solitary bee or wasp.
Could also be ants. Termites unlikely.
your local agricultural extension service might help with ID'ing the insect. (Maybe Germany doesn't have these, but there is probably something similar.)
Probably not something to worry about unless the holes in the wood are a problem.
 
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  • #3
Carpenter bees maybe?

1712956755336.png

https://thedailypest.vikingpest.com/carpenter-bee-faq
 
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  • #4
Sounds like your call on the solitary bee is right on. There’s a couple species that I know of right off the bat that demonstrate this kind of behavior, namely carpenter bees and leafcutter bees. I only know of the latter by reputation and documentaries, but I know carpenter bees well enough from my time growing up in California. Those were some mighty big bees, and would actively chew a tunnel into the crossmembers of the grape arbor in the backyard every spring. If you were quiet, you could actually hear them chewing. I’m not entirely sure that’s what you have, but it’s similar.

I second the suggestion of the ag extension, or perhaps a local nature center/museum, for assistance in identifying the bee.

If you’re worried about the bees causing problems, put out a bunch of tubes in the yard or surrounding area, making sure they’ve of similar size to the ones they seem to like, and hopefully the bees will accept the offering and leave your furniture alone.
 
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  • #5
Flyboy said:
put out a bunch of tubes in the yard or surrounding area, making sure they’ve of similar size to the ones they seem to like, and hopefully the bees will accept the offering and leave your furniture alone.
My wife did that last year and she enjoyed watching the carpenter bees do their thing. :smile:
 
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  • #6
I remember something in the directions that came with my wife's carpenter bee tunnel house that specified which way the open tube ends should face. I did a quick search and it looks like they should face the morning Sun...

1712960443385.png
 
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  • #7
berkeman said:
I remember something in the directions that came with my wife's carpenter bee tunnel house that specified which way the open tube ends should face. I did a quick search and it looks like they should face the morning Sun...
Wake up little bees, wake up!
 
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  • #8
Flyboy said:
Sounds like your call on the solitary bee is right on. There’s a couple species that I know of right off the bat that demonstrate this kind of behavior, namely carpenter bees and leafcutter bees. I only know of the latter by reputation and documentaries, but I know carpenter bees well enough from my time growing up in California. Those were some mighty big bees, and would actively chew a tunnel into the crossmembers of the grape arbor in the backyard every spring. If you were quiet, you could actually hear them chewing. I’m not entirely sure that’s what you have, but it’s similar.
Thanks!

The de.wikipedia articles mention that the two have very different hatching behaviours: Carpenters grow quickly, emerge the same spring, are active during summer and autumn, and then hibernate before laying eggs themselves the next spring. Leafcutters grow so slowly that they hibernate before emerging the next spring, so they have to mate and lay eggs as soon as they become active.

Yep, I did hear something while I was taking the pictures! Just couldn't quite tell if it was the bee, and whether it was chewing or rustling or whatever...

One of the articles mentions that carpenters sometimes return to their old nests, both for shelter and to re-use them the next year, and that those multi-generational nests may then become more of a cause for concern. For the time being, keeping an eye on things should be all that's needful. :)
 
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  • #9
Flyboy said:
If you’re worried about the bees causing problems, put out a bunch of tubes in the yard or surrounding area, making sure they’ve of similar size to the ones they seem to like, and hopefully the bees will accept the offering and leave your furniture alone.
This kind also works just fine:
odu1.jpg


Ps.: I hope this works: some tips about the making, and some pictures about the internal workings of the nesting site at the end...
 
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  • #10
Rive said:
This kind also works just fine:
View attachment 343288

Ps.: I hope this works: some tips about the making, and some pictures about the internal workings of the nesting site at the end...
Cheers! I thought "insect hotel!" as soon as I saw your picture, and that Wikipedia article mentions the more specialized https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee_hotel as well. Silly of me not to have the connection right away or at least from the previous posts here, really!

berkeman said:
I remember something in the directions that came with my wife's carpenter bee tunnel house that specified which way the open tube ends should face. I did a quick search and it looks like they should face the morning Sun...
From said article:
en.wikipedia said:
Bees, unlike wasps, favour hotels that receive direct (especially morning) sunlight, and that are closer to the ground. Bee hotels located on multi-storey building rooftops and in shaded areas are more likely to attract wasps.
 
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