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Treating the barn with diesel and transmission fluid?

Treating the barn with diesel and transmission fluid?

55 Gallon DrumOne of the great mysteries of our new home was why the previous owners would leave behind several fifty gallon barrels of chemicals behind. It was alarming. We wanted to dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way but weren’t quite sure where to start. The previous owners didn’t have a tractor so why did they have giant barrels of what seemed like thick oil or grease? We mentioned this to several people in the area and it was only last month that someone gave us the clue we needed to solve this mystery. Our barn is wood sided and apparently it’s common in this area to mix some concoction of diesel fuel, used transmission fluid and whatever this oil/grease is in the barrels to treat the wood on the barn. It’s supposed to protect the wood from the weather and insects, such as carpenter bees. I have never heard of such a thing. I guess it kind of makes sense. I know wood needs to be chemically treated to last but it seems odd to me that we should be using something that is…I don’t know…HIGHLY FLAMMABLE!

Have you ever heard of this? What do you guys use for your wooden barns/out-buildings?

Carpenter Bees and other downsides to spring

Carpenter Bees and other downsides to spring

Spring flowers

It’s been in the 70s and low 80’s all week, a sure sign that spring is on the way. I love spring but there a few things I’m not looking forward to. The first has got to be carpenter bees. I mentioned carpenter bees last year when I noticed how much damage they were doing to our wooden barn and wood-sided house. Upon further inspection this year, we quickly realized that carpenter bees have destroyed a significant number of important beams in the old barn in the pasture. We’re going to have to replace those this year or risk losing the barn. It’s that serious. You’ll recall that carpenter bees don’t just drill large holes in wood, they burrow up to 10 feet into the wood. We treated the burrows we could reach last year with Sevin dust and sealed up a good many of them with expanding foam. Yeah, wood filler would have been better but we had a LOT of holes. The expanding foam seemed more economical.  And easier.

Walking around outside today, I can tell you I must not have made too big an impact on the carpenter bee population because they are everywhere! I’m not sure what to do about the ones in the air besides what some call “carpenter bee tennis,” but I’m back to treating the holes I can find with Sevin dust. I’m worried about places I can’t see or easily get to like 25 feet up in the rafters of the barn, under our deck or behind the wood siding of our house. Stupid carpenter bees.

Another related downside to spring is wasps. Our barn serves as an ideal wasp nest host, with crevices all over, including lots of hidden ones. Last year there were days where we just didn’t want to hang out at the barn much due to all the aggressive wasps. I made some wasp traps with nectar attractant, the kind that is easy to get into but hard to get out of, but the wasps totally ignored it. We diligently knocked down or treated wasp nests as we found them and there were no incidents with our horses. But now I’m back on wasp patrol. Any suggestions are welcome.

Flies – they’re coming soon. I’ve seen some but when you have horses, you’ll have flies and lots of them. We were successful last year with fly parasites from Arbico Organics (there are lots of companies that sell them). Have you seen these? You subscribe to a monthly service that sends fly parasite larvae. They hatch and destroy flies in some kind of gruesome way. We were skeptical but proved last year they really do work. We wrote last May about what fly treatment methods we were trying. It’s time to think about what we’re going to use this year.

Thorns and other weeds – We’re excited about the grass growing. Our horses seem seriously tired of dry hay and I don’t blame them. But the return of grass means the weeds and thorn bushes are also returning. Time to get out into the pasture to uproot the thorn vines. We also need to stay on top of keeping the pasture trimmed/bush-hogged. Apparently, if you don’t keep your grass trimmed, the weeds choke out the good stuff.

Snakes – Mikki wrote last year about a snake that visited our barn and freaked us all out. I hate snakes! They creep me out. Yes I know, they provide the valuable service of getting rid of mice and rats but I’d still rather have barn cats.

Other than those things, we’re VERY MUCH looking forward to spring. I’ll take warm weather with these downsides any day over 20 degrees and windy.

Carpenter Bees Attack!

Carpenter Bees Attack!

Carpenter bee closeup

As a kid, I recall spring and summer brought lots of bees. I specifically remember these huge bees and how they would bore holes into our wooden fences. They never seemed to do any harm to me so I left them alone. Now that as grownups we’ve moved from the city to the country and spring is upon us, I started noticing these huge bees here in Tennessee. There have been a lot of them around our house and barn (both structures have wood siding) but since the bees haven’t been bothering us, I didn’t pay much attention. That is until I noticed the number of holes they were drilling into our house and barn.

Carpenter Bee Damage

These holes are BIG (almost dime size) and there are a lot of them. But I really paid attention after doing some research on the Internet. The one or two-inch deep hole we’re seeing is only a tiny part of the tunnel they bore. That tunnel takes a 90-degree turn and can continue anywhere from 4 inches to 10 feet, depending on how many bees use it. Obviously this kind of tunneling can cause serious structural damage. So now we’re on the hunt to kill carpenter bees. Here are some interesting things we’ve learned:

  • Females drill the holes and are the only ones with stingers.
  • Males are very aggressive but do not have stingers so they can do little harm.
  • Adult carpenter bees “overwinter” (hibernate?) in these tunnels and then emerge in spring to mate and drill some more.
  • Insecticides can easily kill the bees but it’s difficult to eradicate the eggs those bees have already laid. Dusting with carbaryl (Sevin) seems to be most effective against infestation and re-infestation since applied dust can travel through the tunnels. This can kill the bees and help de-hydrate larvae the following season. Dusters are available at many hardware stores for around $15.
  • Some wait until fall to plug-up treated holes but holes should be plugged after the adult bees are dead.
  • Prevention includes diligent treatment of existing infestation as well as painting wood surfaces. Carpenter bees seem to prefer unpainted, untreated wood. Wood stain doesn’t seem to help, but pressure-treated wood does.

So now we’re spending an hour or two every week working on this carpenter bee problem. In our barn alone, which is a six-stall barn (pictures later), I must have dusted 50 holes so far. Uggg.

For more information, the following link was helpful to us and there are a lot of articles on Google:

Ohio State University Extension – Carpenter Bees, HYG-2074-94