This guide will focus on how to get rid of carpenter bees, which are also often referred to as wood boring bees. It’s also one of the largest native bee species in the country.
While there are different kinds of bees, this guide is solely focused on that one specific type. We’ll try and address the different topics that you may be curious to get answered here.
By understanding the behavior of carpenter bees, you will not only know how to get rid of them, you’ll also know things you can do to keep them away in the first place.
Should you not wish to read the whole article, you can simply go ahead and skip down to the section talking about how to get rid of them.
Their Benefits – Do They Pollinate?
While you may not like these bees, they do serve certain functions that are very important. Even if they seem intimidating with the sound they make and the size that they have.
According to UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, native bees such as carpenter bees contribute with as much as $4.5 billion in value from the pollination they’re doing.
This includes pollinating different things, such as wild plant that are a food source for other animals in the food chain too.
They may seem like a pest because of the damage they do to wood, but some specialists claim that the value that they provide from pollination is greater than their damage, although it is obviously annoying being a homeowner and finding that your house is getting eaten by them.
Can They Cause Structural Damage
Structural damage to building, such as the construction framing is not really something you should be too worried about. As NCSU points out, it would not just take a lot of years but also a lot of carpenter bees before structural damage would become the case. They would need to not just work a lot of years, but create a lot of tunnels before it would get seriously damaged.
The issue being that the tunnels that they’re digging can cause water to be able to enter through the holes, which could cause rot to possibly become a problem, especially with siding or if they create roof leaks.
Their feces will, however, stain the wood, which may not be too nice to look at.
They could also dig into planks on a porch which could cause that plank to become unstable
Where do They Live?
Carpenter bees live in different plant stems as well as softer types of wood. If you hear them actually making their nests, that can get as deep as 10 inches and half an inch wide, you’ll notice that they sound like saws while working.
If you have unfinished or weathered wood around your home, this will attract carpenter bees that will seek to use it for their nest. Nests that can get more extensive if they are simply left to do as they please. This is why wood siding must be repaired, stained or painted to help keep them away.
Besides attracting carpenter bees, unprotected wood will also deteriorate a lot faster because of the humidity that makes it deteriorate faster. Decks, porches, siding and fascia boards are common places for carpenter bees to live in.
During winter, they’ll crawl into their nests and stay there until the weather gets better again.
If you make sure that your wood is treated properly, you should likely not be facing any problems with carpenter bees, but if you choose to have a pergola or arbor installed in their favorite dish and you don’t make sure to protect it, you might just find yourself having to share it with these little pollinating animals.
How to Avoid Inviting Them Into Your Wood
There are different tips that can be used to help keep them away in the first place, and making these things part of your annual home maintenance checklist can save you from having to deal with a potential issue later on.
- Stain or coat wood, even where you don’t expect them to be able to get to – the backs and undersides of wood are often places where people don’t think of painting, but it might be necessary if you want to be keeping those bees away. Two coats of paint will also provide better protection than one.
- Some siding materials are better than others – cedar siding is naturally very insect-resistant, unlike some other types of wood siding such as fir, for instance. This consideration is good to make if you live in an area that traditionally has a lot of bees.
- Treated wood is also better – the bees are more likely to be discouraged by the treatment that the material has undergone, causing it to stay away.
- Use materials not made by wood – you can get trim, siding and roofing that aren’t made from wood, which will keep them away too. Such alternatives include fiber cement siding, masonry, viny and aluminum, although they’re not limited to these options.
- Deal with cracks – cracks, nail holes, splintered wood and other places where it could be difficult to treat with stain or other options should be filled out with caulking, and it should be done before paint is applied.
What do They Eat?
Surprisingly, even though you might have thought so, they actually don’t eat wood, even if they live inside of it. They’ll eat the nectar from flowering plants. They also eat the pollen.
Carpenter Bees vs Bumblebees
Many people confuse carpenter bees and bumblebees why we think it could be relevant for you to have a comparison of the two so that you’re likely to recognize one from the other.
The body of a carpenter bee is usually between ½ and 1 inch long. With the bumblebees generally being 3/4 to 1 inch longer, they’re the smaller ones of the two. Their back is usually black, but may also be either purplish or green, depending on the species. Their back is, however bare and shiny unlike the ones of bumblebees.
The two different types of bees also nest differently. The bumblebee is also fuzzy and hairy across most of its body, and not bare and shiny. They also have at least some degree of yellow.
The amount of hair and fuzziness is the easiest way to tell the two species from each other. Excrement stains next to the holes they dig are also signs that you’re dealing with a carpenter bee. They do not swarm and are generally pretty reluctant to stinging unless provoked.
The holes they make are to put their eggs inside of.
The bumblebees have bands of black and yellow stripes or coloring and don’t nest inside holes in wood that they make but rather burrow in the ground. Since they’re social bees, they have a tendency to sting when they believe their hive is in danger, although since they generally don’t perceive danger, will leave humans alone.
Facts About Them
Before you go about aggressively aiming to get rid of these little fellas, it might be worth it to learn some facts about carpenter bees. You may even come to find that there’s no need to get rid of them just yet.
- They’re not that dangerous – in fact, it’s only in rare instances that they’re dangerous and they’ll generally avoid stinging if they can.
Although they might look big and frightening, there’s not much about this type of animal that you should be worried about.
- The male carpenter bees may seem more aggressive.
Although they may seem more aggressive in their flying, they won’t do anything.
- Avoid irritating them and you’ll be fine.
They might fly and buzz around in your proximity but chances are they won’t do anything other than just that.
- There are 4 different stages that they go through.
Starting out as an egg in one of the tunnels along with the pollen that was placed there by the mom. The eggs are hidden away inside softer wood, up to 10 inches in.
When the egg hatches, the larva sees the light of the day. At this stage, the mom brings food for the larva. The food is left inside the tunnels.
The bee enters the metamorphis stage in which it turns into an adult. At this point, they’re still just inside the nest.
The whole process of turning into an adult carpenter bee takes seven weeks from the egg is laid. This is also the first time that they leave the nest to see the rest of the world, and they use the mandibles to help them get out at this point.
- How Many Eggs Does the Mom Lay?
While other insects may lay hundreds of eggs, that is not the case with these insects. In fact, they’ll generally lay 6-10 eggs in total, which is considerably less than other insects.
- Females die not too long after laying eggs, and the egg-laying is therefore often done as a batch.
Laying the eggs in a batch increases their chances of survival for the bees.
- The males have a hard time surviving the mating.
Well, they don’t have a hard time surviving the actual mating, but once it’s over, the males die shortly after.
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The amount of different types and species of carpenter bees is impressive, spread all over the world, and they’re all part of the xylocopa genus family. The section below will focus on the types that you may more commonly find in the US, since that is where most of our readers are located.
Xylocopa Micans, the Southern Carpenter Bee
Appreciating the American tropical weather, they’ll generally not go further north than the southern part of Virginia. Coastal lowlands and riperian wetlands is their most common habitat, although they can be found in other parts too.
Their prefered food includes the nectar and pollen from azalea, hibiscus and veronia. They’re not as great of a nuisance as their other family members since they’ll usually steer clear of human-made structures. They each live a year.
As you can see, they’re a little bit fuzzy although the abdomen is still shiny and black.
Xylocopa virginica, the Eastern Carpenter Bee
These aren’t as selective in terms of where they choose to live making it into about half of the US, although preferring the Eastern parts of the country.
Their favorite habitats include pine and cedar, meaning you’ll need to make sure to have your wood painted to keep them from becoming part of your close family.
The females are in charge of nest construction, foraging an reproduction, while the only responsibility of the male is to reproduce. The purplish tint on females is how you recognize the virginica species, while the males will additionally have white spots for you to identify them.
Xylocopa Tabaniformis, the “Horsefly”
With their look resembling a horsefly, they’re often confused for horseflies. Their preferred places to live include coast redwood, giant redwood, Mexican pine, cedar, Douglas fir, cottonwood, coffee plants. They are not commonly found outside Utah, Nevada and Oregon.
They’re mainly found in the Hawaiian Islands. They likely got there through commerce. They like dry wood, where other species prefer rotting or decaying wood, and because of it, homeowners should be looking out for signs that they have chosen to inhabit your property.
Valley Carpenter Bee
The main places they live include California, Nevada, Arizona and parts of New Mexico. While other types we have talked about in this article have commonly had black abdomens and otherwise predominantly been black, these look considerably different with their gold brown look, including the fact that they’re also considerably more fuzzy.
The female valley carpenter bee is more traditionally looking like other species.
cWhat Attracts Them (and How to Keep Them Away)?
As you have been able to read from the section on the different types, different types of wood will attract different subspecies, and you could therefore be living in an area where they’ll basically not bother your home, or you could be living in an area where you can’t leave your wood unpainted without basically expecting a small infestation to take over your home.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees
Now it’s time for the more juicy stuff of how to actually get rid of carpenter bees. It’s not too hard and there are in fact a lot of home remedies that you can use to try and get rid of them yourself if you wish.
1. Use Almond oil or Essence to Repel Them
This is great for repelling carpenter bees, and is even a natural remedy.
2. Use Diatomaceous Earth
This is a soft sedimentary rock that easily crumbles and turn into whitish powder and it’s a natural insecticide. Put this inside their nests and have the holes closed off.
3. Make Sure Wood is Painted
We’ve mentioned it before, but wood should stay painted to that it isn’t as attractive to the bees. They have a strong preference for untreated wood and will typically leave it alone if it has been treated. A good primer is important and two coats of paint will provide better protection than one coat. Consider hiring a professional house painter to have it done right.
4. Certain Essential Oils Will Help Keep Them Away
Don’t want to use chemical insecticides to get rid of them? Some essential oils can help too and these include lavender, citronella, tea tree, jojoba and neem. Spray a mixture of them and alcohol on the affected areas.
5. Go for Hardwood Over Softwood
When you’re choosing the building material to go with, hardwood is preferred over softwood, especially if carpenter bee infestations are common in your area. It might be more expensive but they’ll help keep your home protected.
This is the case whether you’re installing siding or placing outside furniture. Consider options including maple, cherry, ash or oak.
6. Pyrethrum Spray is a Possible Natural Insecticide
Pyrethrum spray can be used to kill carpenter bees, but if you choose to use this, it should be done responsibly since there are possible side effects from using it. Gloves and protective clothing should be used to avoid inhalation and to make sure you don’t get stung in the process either.
7. Use Citrus Spray
Citrus spray should be used on the areas where the carpenter bees have been nesting. You can either buy already made solutions or simply make your own.
Use it on the holes they have dug and make sure to seal them afterwards.
8. Use Badminton or Tennis Rockets to Squash Them
They have a time of the year when they’ll become very active in their search for food for the larvae, which is when you’ll be able to hit them with either a badminton or tennis rocket at which point you can just step on them using shoes. It won’t deal with the nests but it’ll at least take care of the ones you see flying around.
9. Using Aerosol Carb Cleaners
This can either be sprayed directly on the bees or on their nests, and it’s a very effective means to use for the purpose, and it could kill carpenter bees fast and on contact depending on the type you’re using.
If you choose this method, make sure that you do so safely so as to not get stung. Spray it inside their nests too and be sure to deal with the holes afterwards so that they won’t keep being used by others needing to nest.
10. Boric Acid
This can be used in nests before they hatch and since they often only lay eggs once, could at least help take care of the infestation going forward.
11. Use Non-Wooden Materials
Non-wooden materials won’t draw in carpenter bees, so consider alternatives such as vinyl or fiber cement.
12. Use Bee Sprays
Bee sprays are a popular way of dealing with carpenter bees. You can get them from Amazon and use it directly on the nest to get rid of the problem. Follow the instructions recommended by the manufacturer, which will include wearing protective equipment.
You might have to repeat the process a couple of times, but again, the recommendations of the manufacturer is what you ought to go off.
13. Make Sure to Deal With All the Nests
Although you might have gotten rid of the carpenter bees, the nests could be used by other bees subsequent years so simply killing the ones that are currently living there is not enough. Block and seal off the entries. Steel wool is commonly used inside the nests since it’s not a product that they can just dig through.
If you haven’t killed the bees first, they might simply try and dig a different exit. Don’t simply use caulk or putty as it might not be enough to deal with the problem.
14. Petrol or Diesel Will Kill them
It’s obviously a flammable material and should be handled with caution, making sure that nothing could ignite it in the process. Goggles, gloves and a respirator are recommended when you use this method.
Spray bottles that have been use for this should also be clearly marked so that you don’t accidentally end up using it for other purposes afterwards.
15. Large Noises Could Help Keep Them From Wanting to Live Near Your House
Bring out the old boom box or another sound source to discourage them from living near your house. The only issue is that it could be a nuisance to you as well.
16. Vacuum Them Out
A strong vacuum cleaner can be put against the nest to vacuum them out of there. It’s worth mentioning that the method becomes less effective as the nest gets deeper since the vacuum may simply not be strong enough in those cases.
Use a wet vacuum to drown the bees as you may otherwise just get angry bees living the vacuum until they eventually die.
17. Use a Professional Exterminator
While they may use some of the same methods, this method ensures that you won’t be stung in the process. They’re able to ensure that it’s done properly and that you limit the amount of damage that these insects will do to your home.
It’s important to note that you will easily get agitated bees when you use these methods and in any case, it’s best to wear the necessary protective clothing to make sure you don’t get stung in the process. While there are things that will help get rid of or repel carpenter bees, some of the methods even being naturally, the safest way to deal with the situation is by using professional exterminators.
18. Using Traps
Carpenter bee traps can help you catch them, basically luring them in and making sure they’re unable to escape again. They’re made to resemble a nest but end up trapping the bees inside a container such as a bottle which they’ll have trouble getting out of again. They can either be purchased or made DIY style.
There are instructions here on how to make your own or you can watch the video below.
What is The Best Time to Treat the Infestation?
As soon as you observe their presence is when you should deal with it so they do not start having time to nest and bore holes. This will typically happen in the early spring so start being especially aware around that time.
If you didn’t manage to deal with them in the early spring, you should go around your house mid-summer and check for nests, especially if you notice the bees being present around your home as they’re likely to have also bored holes.
When the fall comes around, the bees will start fleeing back into their tunnels as they’re getting ready to hibernate. The chambers that contain the eggs are often sealed off in the late spring so as to protect the eggs, which is why you will also want to make sure to deal with them if there’s still a problem with them.
You should only cover up holes a couple of days after treatment as you want to be sure that the treatment has sufficed, or you will just find them excavating to get out through a different opening which in turn may cause additional damage to the wood.
Carpenter Bees vs Honey Bees
While honey bees have a hive that they’re protecting, carpenter bees don’t, and that makes you less likely to be stung by them.
Difference Between Males and Females – Do Both Types Sting?
One of the differences between the males and the females is that female carpenter bees will sting as a defensive reaction. Male carpenter bees, on the other hand, cannot sting, even if they will come off as being more aggressive.