Spring is a beautiful time of the year but also when bees emerge.
Carpenter bees are a particular problem around homes because they are attracted to wood where they like to build their hives.
When faced with carpenter bees, it's best to know the enemy and how to eliminate it. While they're not a "serious" threat, they can damage your property and cause a bit of a headache.
Would you want to share the wood of your home with these insects? If not, read on.
What Is a Carpenter Bee?
A carpenter bee is in the same scientific family as the bumblebee and is one of the 13 most common types found in the United States.
They tend to be between 1 and 1.5 in. long and have bulbous, black, round bodies. Like all insects, the carpenter bee has three body segments, six legs, and a single pair of antennae on its head. The wings are translucent and often have a blue hue towards the tips.
Below is a good video to get a sense of what they look like in action! You can actually see them land and dive into their carved out holes.
Carpenter bees are overwhelmingly female, especially during the later months of spring and summer. The males only live to reproduce and then die quickly, leaving the females to bore into wood and make a home for their young.
This boring is what drives humans insane, because it is often done on decks, porches, or other areas where untreated wood is exposed and unpainted.
Are Carpenter Bees Dangerous?
Despite their reputation, carpenter bees are not dangerous.
The males can be aggressive, but they lack stingers and can't do anything to people besides fly around or headbutt someone annoying them.
Females do have stingers, but they almost never use them. Contrary to popular belief, carpenter bees do NOT eat wood rather they bore through it to create their best.
Even more interesting is that the damage caused by carpenter bees isn't really that serious either. Despite a few obnoxious holes, the structural integrity will remain stable (unlike a termite infestation).
Read Also: Carpenter bees vs honey bees and wasps
Where Do Carpenter Bees Come From?
Carpenter bees hibernate during the winter and emerge in April and May. Most specimens sleep in the abandoned tunnels of an old hive. Since carpenter bee hives are bored into wood like abandoned logs or porch planks, they seem to come from nowhere.
Carpenter bees prefer old or rotting wood and cause minimal damage to the area where they live. If bees seem to be coming from your house, porch, or other structure on your property, it's a good sign that the wood is breaking down.
The bees will also seek out new homes. Even if you have never had an infestation before, the carpenter bee might decide it likes your house and will stick around. This is especially true if you have lots of pollinating flowers that provide food.
Carpenter Bee Sting Warning
Although carpenter bees are relatively docile and do not attack in groups, the female bee does have a stinger and could result in pain an allergic reaction if provoked enough.
What Happens if They Infest Your Home?
A single bee or two living in the wood of your home is not dangerous. While they do bore into the wood, they do not stay long or take up much space. Most will leave of their own accord after a few weeks. Since carpenter bees are also solitary, this means you typically won't have a large infestation.
However, if a lot of bees seem attracted to your house, it's time for action. First, you need to get rid of them. This can be done using pesticides (not recommend) or by calling a wildlife center near you. There are even special pest control companies who will relocate bees, though call first to make sure they accept carpenter bees.
Read Also: What's the best trap to get carpenter bees?
Best Way To Prevent Carpenter Bees?
Carpenter bees like soft wood. The best way to prevent infestations in the wood used for porches and patios is to stain or finish the surface.
The stain, varnish, or finish forms a waterproof seal that carpenter bees can't drill through. It can be applied at the beginning of the spring and prevent infestations for at least several years.
People who know carpenter bees are an annual problem can try making starter houses for the back yard. These are pieces of wood with small holes drilled into them. The holes attract bees because part of their work is already done. For maximum effectiveness, make sure the wood is soft and left outside before being hung.
If neither of these options work, try spraying around the wood with almond, citrus, or tea tree oil. Some claim it annoys the bees and they won't try to nest in the area.
How to Get Rid of Them if You Have Them?
Safety equipment (like a respirator) should be worn no matter what elimination method is used against bees. This means you should wear thick gloves, a face mask, and a form of eye protection. Some of the ways to get rid of carpenter bees include:
- Plugging the holes
- Spraying certain oils
- Calling a relocator
Our Preferred Process of Removal
Here at Pest Strategies, our preferred method of carpenter bee removal is to mix a powder like diatomaceous earth with a carpenter bee trap and then a plug. Below are the steps:
- First identify the location of the nest or nests
- Preferably in the evening, use a puffer to apply a desiccant powered like DE or CimXa dust to their nest and wait approximately 1-2 weeks
- During the two week waiting period, hang up a carpenter bee trap near the currently active nest
- After the 2 week period, plug up the hole using caulk or some other kind of plugging device.
- Now observe the activity of the bees over the next week or two to ensure they've left/died out/or were captured in the trap
Please remember that female carpenter bees can sting and they will sting you if provoked enough. We recommend at the very least wearing thick closes and eye protection. If possible a bee suit would be the most ideal.
Can't You Just Plug Up Carpenter Bee Holes?
The reason we do NOT recommend immediately plugging up their holes is because carpenter bees are capable of digging their way out. This will create a second hole and possibly a nest that will relocate somewhere else around your home.
The killing of bees is not recommended though because many bees are rapidly heading towards extinction. Someone concerned about the environment can instead called a professional to relocate the colony and take them to a new location.
Closing thoughts about getting rid of carpenter bees...
Overall, carpenter bees aren't really THAT bad as compared to some other more destructive bugs (like carpenter ants and termites).
Carpenter bees are capable of causing some damage, but nothing catastrophic. Assuming you keep moisture from building up and softening exposed wood around your home (probably your deck or porch), then you should be okay.
Remember, these bees actually do help with pollination so its important to prevent an infestation in the first place so that you don't have to take more lethal measures against their colony.
Other Bee Guides
Curious about other bee related articles? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.