Carpenter bees are beneficial to the environment because they are excellent pollinators. Unfortunately, if they nest in or around your home, carpenter bees can cause extensive damage to softwoods such as pine and cedar.
This guide will review how to get rid of carpenter bees around your property and prevent their return.
How Carpenter Bees Damage Wood
Carpenter bees do not feed on wood, but bore into it to create nesting "galleries" where they lay eggs in the spring and take shelter in the winter. The holes carpenter bees create may seem small on the outside, but the galleries are much bigger and more damaging than meets the eye.
A carpenter bee nest opens into a tunnel that follows a straight path for a few inches, then turns sharply 90-degrees and can extend for several feet to their chambers. Because the tunnels take so long to construct, females prefer to return to already constructed tunnels every year and enlarge them as needed. This increases the damage to the wood.
If unchecked, the damage from carpenter bees can completely destabilize all the wood in the area they have colonized. In addition, the presence of carpenter bees can attract woodpeckers who further burrow into the wood looking for larval stage bees to eat.
Tip: Male carpenters bees tend to be more active and aggressive but are incapable of stinging. Female carpenter bees sting only when provoked.
How to Identify Carpenter Bees and Carpenter Bee Damage
There are more than 4,000 types of bees in the United States. Around our homes, we often encounter bumblebees and carpenter bees. How to know the difference? Carpenter bees are larger, about 3/4-inch to 1-inch. Bumblebees are a little larger than 1/2-inch in length.
Carpenter bees have shiny, hairless abdomens. Bumbleebees have hairy abdomens and a yellow band near the end.
If you’re concerned about carpenter bee infestation around your home, check for these warning signs:
- 1/2- to 3/4-inch circular openings in wood
- Sawdust or wood shavings around or near those openings
- A yellow substance near or just inside the entrance
- Threatening flight activity around the area, which is usually males defending the territory
Carpenter Bee Pesticides
A large bee infestation might require professional intervention. However, since carpenter bees are not social insects and tend to be more solitary bees, getting rid of carpenter bees usually does not involve dealing with a large hive. Pesticides offer an effective means to eliminate the pests.
Keep in mind that the best time to treat for carpenter bees is not when they emerge in spring, but in late summer before the bees hibernate. Very early spring before bees emerge is the second-best option.
When you treat, carpenter bee sprays can be applied on and around the holes in the wood. The spray is effective on newer intrusions. Spray insecticide more heavily in very early spring to prevent infestation and then treat regularly throughout the summer.
Insecticidal dust can be applied more deeply into the wood and is ideal for longer-term infestations. It also prevents the larvae from reproducing. Use a hand duster to spray the dust directly into the hole.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Naturally
Carpenter bees are pollinating insects, so you may want to learn how to get rid of carpenter bees with non-toxic and organic methods. There are several means of getting rid of them. For effective treatment, pay attention to their life cycle and treat in late summer or very early spring. That is the best time to seal their favorite places.
Carpenter bee traps are convenient to use and offer a non-toxic method of elimination. Buy or build a trap and hang it directly above the bee hole. Bees will enter the trap believing it to be a nest and be unable to escape.
Non-toxic liquids that repel bees include solutions of water with citrus oil or almond oil. Use a spray bottle to apply around the bee holes to encourage the bees to leave the nest. You need to apply frequently. For best results, combone several techniques to repel carpenter bees.
Loud noises and vibrations are known to repel bees, so play loud music with the speakers next to the area of infestation for 2-3 days. In this case, you’ll want to fill the holes as soon as they’ve left.
Tip: Professional pest exterminators may be able to relocate the bees without harming them, depending on the accessibility of the nest.
How to Prevent Carpenter Bee Infestations
Take measures to prevent the return of a carpenter bee problem.
- Early fall is the best time for preventing carpenter bee damage because the galleries will most likely be empty. Young adult bees will have hatched and moved on, while the mature bees will not have settled in for winter.
- Plug up carpenter bee holes. Use plugs, putty or caulk to plug up the holes after the bees have vacated the gallery. After repairing the holes, paint the wood for more protection.
- Carpenter bees prefer weathered or unfinished wood. Be sure to paint or varnish exposed wood surfaces around your home to make it less attractive to the bees. The most vulnerable areas are windowsills, railings, decks, fences, doors, eaves, fascia, wood handled tools and wooden lawn furniture.
- Cover exterior openings to your home with fine mesh screens or caulk for small crevices to prevent bee incursions.
- Hardwoods like oak are less appealing to carpenter bees than softwoods like pine and cedar.
DIY pest control offers methods to control carpenter bees and protect your outdoor furniture, deck, wood trim, pergola and other outdoor structures. Ready to get the supplies you need for getting rid of carpenter bees? The Home Depot has free delivery on over one million online items.