Although carpenter bees are harmless to humans, they can cause structural damage, which can lead to thousands of dollars in repairs. These bees are present in early fall and spring, but this depends on the region.
If you’ve noticed holes in the wood on your siding or fences, you may be dealing with a carpenter bee infestation.
In this guide, learn how to identify carpenter bees. We also give you tips on how to get rid of carpenter bees.
Identifying Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees get their name from their habit of drilling into the wood to make nests for their young ones. A carpenter bee is about half to one-inch in length as an adult. Their abdomen is shiny and bare.
Some species may have a green color, but the common ones are black. The female has a black face, while the males have a yellow face with a white dot on their head.
Although bumblebees and carpenter bees look similar, bumblebees have a hairy abdomen with yellow markings while carpenter bees have a bare abdomen. Bumblebees nest on the ground, and the carpenter nest in the wood.
Habits of Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees have different nesting habits thanks to their solitary nature. They create tunnels in wood to lay their eggs, unlike other bees that nest in the ground.
During spring months, these bees re-emerge from their hiding spots to mate. The females then create tunnels in wood to lay their eggs after mating. That is done in a series of small holes. These holes are about a diameter and are round.
If you notice several holes, this could indicate multiple bee nests as female carpenter bees create one nesting hole. In some cases, the females can return to their nesting sites, and develop new tunnels to lay their eggs. That could lead to structural damage unless you get the right treatment.
These types of bees prefer weathered or bare softwoods to nest. You’re likely to come across them on cypress, pine, cedar, and redwood trees. It’s easy to spot them on a wood-stained deck. Painted or treated wood is less susceptible to carpenter bee nesting.
Around your home, you’ll find carpenter bees nesting around the window trim, decks, outdoor furniture, eaves, fascia boards, and wooden play equipment.
Male carpenter bees can be aggressive, and you may notice them flying at and around people. However, they are harmless, as they cannot sting. Females only sting when provoked or handled.
Signs of a Carpenter Bee Infestation
While most infestations begin in the spring, these bees can cause damage to wooden structures throughout the year. You could be facing an infestation if you notice sawdust around the wood in your home. Carpenter bees drill holes in wood, which could lead to sawdust.
Fecal stains and pollen that is yellow near an entrance hole could also indicate an infestation. If you’ve noticed make carpenter bees flying around the hole to the nest, you may be facing a carpenter bee problem. Male carpenter bees flit around the nest’s opening to guard it against predators and flying insects.
The presence of numerous bees around shingles, decks, doors, windowsills, and eaves is an indication of carpenter bees.
Buzzing in walls is another common sign of carpenter bees. You’ll hear a vibration or a buzzing sound coming from the walls as the bees drill through wooden surfaces. It’s essential to note that other household pests like carpenter ants and termites could also produce this noise. If you’re unsure of the cause, you can call a pest control specialist.
Another distinct sign of carpenter bees is the circular and smooth holes they drill. The holes are only big enough to accommodate their bodies. These holes are different compared to the damage caused by other wood-boring insects.
Watch out for structural damage to wooden items in your house like porches, railings, decks, and wooden stairs. If you notice cracks or warps, find out if there are holes present, as this will help you determine if you have a carpenter bee problem.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees
Getting rid of carpenter bees doesn’t have to be complicated. Below are some tips on how to get rid of wood bees.
Carry Out an Inspection
Carpenter bees are active between April and May. You can find them under decks, around eaves of the house, or on porch rails. Look for places that a bee can drill a hole and create a nest.
Check for holes that are half an inch in diameter. If you were to cut the wood, you’d notice a ninety-degree turn that creates a nesting site to lay eggs and hold nectar and pollen for the eggs.
Get a vacuum with the right vacuum nozzle size that can fit in tunnel holes. Ensure that you vacuum inside these holes to get the bees from inside. The method works well during the early stages of nesting and in the evening when bees are hibernating in tunnels.
Use Citrus Oils
Carpenter bees hate citrus scents. You can make citrus oil repellant using five drops of citrus essential oil combined with a cup of water. Alternatively, you may boil citrus peels in water.
Get the mixture and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray the bee’s nest carefully until all of them evacuate.
Squash the Bees
One of the old-fashioned ways on how to kill carpenter bees is to squash them the minute you spot them flying around. You can use a racquet to eliminate them.
Use Sound as a Deterrent
Carpenter bees thrive in silence and are sensitive to noise. You can get rid of them by placing a loudspeaker next to their nesting site. If all bees leave, ensure that you take preventive measures to prevent re-infestation.
You can use a foaming aerosol that has Fipronil. The ingredient is lethal to carpenter bees, and the foam gets deep into the tunnels to kill any eggs and bees hiding inside. Use a straw applicator directly into the drilled holes.
Also, you may consider using an insecticide. Be cautious and use a protective facemask to avoid inhaling chemical fumes, which may cause lung irritation if inhaled. Ensure that you treat the tunnels in early spring. Remember to keep the insecticide away from children and pets as a safety precaution.
Get Some Pyrethrum Spray
Pyrethrum is a flower used in most natural pesticides. Farmers use it as an insecticide in organic gardening. Spray the pyrethrum directly to the nesting sites to eliminate carpenter bees.
Get a Trap
Carpenter bee traps can reduce their population and prevent them from infesting your home. These traps resemble a birdhouse, with a hole drilled on the side to look like a nesting site.
After the bees enter this hole, they’ll be trapped in a chamber, making it challenging for them to escape. Empty the chamber when the bees die. Traps are available at a local hardware store.
Preventing Carpenter Bees
Apart from learning how to kill carpenter bees, you need to know how to prevent them from invading your home. Below are some tips to ensure these bees don’t nest inside or outside your house.
Seal the Tunnels
After carrying out an inspection and finding the tunnels, you need to take some steel wire, spray it with vinegar, and block the holes. The vinegar acts as a repellent, while the steel wool prevents access.
That ensures that these bees don’t come to the same tunnel. Always wear gloves when handling potential nesting sites.
Use Wood Preservatives
You can use borate and apply it to wood. The chemical acts as a repellent and makes wood indigestible to bees and other insects.
Apart from carpenter bee spray, you can use natural oils to prevent carpenter bees. Essential oils like jojoba, tea tree, and lavender oil can keep these bees at bay. Mix them in a bowl and use a spray bottle to spritz this mixture around your home.
As the essence of this oil refreshes your home, it keeps the bees away. You can also use eucalyptus oil with water as it acts as a natural repellent.
Paint Wooden Surfaces
Paint or varnish all wooden surfaces to keep the carpenter bees away. Moreover, the smell deters them from chewing into the wood. Use oil-based paints if you notice the water-based ones aren’t helping prevent carpenter bees.
Construct Bee Hotels
You can construct a bee hotel using wood tubes, paper, or removable bamboo. The hotels provide a nesting site for garden-friendly pollinators like mason bees. It may also act as an alternative female nesting site.
Professional Carpenter Bee Removal
Handling a carpenter bee infestation may prove challenging if you don’t have the right tools and expertise. The safest way to get rid of carpenter bees is to call in a professional pest control company.
They have staff that has undergone professional training to identify the bee species, assess the extent of the infestation, and recommend the best treatment plan.
More information about carpenter bees