Buying Guide

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

How Carpenter Bees Can Damage Wood
A yellow and black carpenter bee stands on a piece of 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. 

Signs of Carpenter Bee Infestation
Holes in a wooden plank show signs of carpenter bee infestation.

If you’re concerned about carpenter bee infestation, 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
Carpenter bee pesticides stand on a table next to a wooden fence.

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. 

Carpenter bee sprays can be applied on and around the holes in the wood and is effective on newer intrusions. Spray insecticide more heavily in 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. 

Tip: Whenever using insecticidal dust or sprays, wear protective clothes, gloves, safety eyewear and a dust mask while taking all other necessary precautions.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Naturally
A carpenter bee trap hangs from a wooden rafter.

Carpenter bees are pollinating insects, so you may want to learn how to get rid of carpenter bees naturally. There are several non-lethal means of getting rid of them. 

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. 

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
A person uses a paintbrush to stain a wooden deck railing.

Take measures to prevent the return of a carpenter bee problem. 

  • The early fall is the best time for preventative measures because the galleries will most likely be empty: the 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. 
  • Carpenter bees prefer weathered or unfinished wood. Paint or varnish exposed wood surfaces around your home to make them less attractive to the bees. The most vulnerable areas are windowsills, railings, decks, fences, doors, eaves and wooden lawn furniture. 
  • Cover exterior openings to your home with fine mesh screens or caulk for small crevices to prevent bee incursions. 
  • Hardwoods are less appealing to carpenter bees than softwoods.

Tip: Painted or varnished wood can be effective at repelling bees.

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.