All About Carpenter Bees
Carpenter Bee Nesting Behavior
If you have seen carpenter bees, you know these fuzzy oversized pollinators are unique amongst their pollen-collecting brethren. They don’t construct nests and colonies like bumble or honey bees, opting for individual homes. Their preference for creating those homes in wood is where the name comes from.
Carpenter bees bore round, smooth half-inch holes into exposed wood to create galleries where they live, breed, and die. They favor untreated wood piles, yard sets, fences, and decks. Though in their natural habitat, they will use softwood trees. While new galleries reach a depth of four to six inches, they prefer to reuse old tunnels.
Those tunnels are where the only ‘danger’ from carpenter bees is. Over successive generations, tunnels can be expanded up to multiple feet in length. They tend to bore along the wood grain, which thankfully causes less damage to the integrity of the wood, but If enough bees take up residence, it can cause structural damage over time.
Preventing an Infestation
The best way to prevent carpenter bees from becoming an issue is to make the wood around your home unappetizing. Since the bees prefer to nest in bare softwoods, we recommend sealing all exposed wood surfaces. While wood stains and preservatives will lightly deter carpenter bees, going for a painted finish will give the best results.
Garages and outbuildings often have exposed wood beams and rafters that are impractical to paint and seal. Try to keep these buildings closed as much as possible while working, especially during the carpenter bees' most active seasons during April and May. If they can’t gain access to the wood while searching for new nests, you’ve successfully prevented an infestation.
These bees would usually nest in the soft branches and trunks of standing dead trees in forests. Unfortunately, much of this natural habitat has been cut down or manicured. Give these pollinators a chance to work by giving them a new home.
Providing some untreated pine or cedar on your property that they can safely use in an out-of-the-way area will help prevent tunnels in places you want to protect.
Try to Avoid Pesticides
North Carolina is home to two native species, the eastern carpenter bee, and the southern carpenter bee. Carpenter bees are workhorses of the pollinating world. Due to their size, they are incredibly hardy and can work in rain, wind, and through the colder months. With a range of up to seven miles, they are great companions if you have flower or vegetable gardens.
If you already have carpenter bees in residence, try to take an integrated pest management approach to deal with them by not reaching immediately for a pesticide. As mentioned, painting will prevent them from targeting wood structures for habitation. But, consider offering up a suitable alternative for them as you remove them from existing nests.
Prevention is easy. Getting carpenter bees out of a nest is the difficult part. And you want to remove them before repairing the damage; otherwise, they will just bore out of the wood from the inside. Harsh chemical pesticides can not only harm the bees, but other beneficial insects in the area, pets, and your own health.
Before using a pesticide, try the following methods to remove the bees:
- Use a non-toxic liquid such as water mixed with citrus or almond oil. Spray around the tunnel entrance and slightly inside (you won’t be able to reach the entire interior).
- Check with your neighbors first, but the vibrations from loud noises can clear them out of holes. Play music loudly on speakers next to the area over a few days.
- If the top two options haven’t had an effect, carpenter bee traps are a convenient and effective way to eliminate the bees, as they enter the trap and cannot escape. Hang the trap directly above any holes for maximum effectiveness.
Once the tunnels look clear, you can repair the damage and apply protective finishes to keep them away.
Repairing the damage done by carpenter bees is very straightforward. Once you have ensured there are no more in the tunnels, seal them up with a dowel rod and some wood putty or caulk.
Inserting a dowel rod before sealing returns a lot of the structural integrity that the wood may have lost. Coupled with caulk or putty and then a finishing sealer or paint, you can prevent reinfestation since they prefer to reuse old galleries and stop any rot from forming in the old boreholes.
Professional Pest Management
If you have done everything in your power and can’t seem to keep carpenter bees out of your home's wood, it may be time to turn to a professional pest management service. They will have the experience to identify the exact species causing an issue and tailor an approach based on their behavior and life cycles.
For over fifty years, Rid-A-Bug Exterminating has provided affordable and professional pest management services to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
While we get results, we also take keeping the environment healthy in and around your home seriously. We offer LEED Certified Treatments that focus on integrated pest management and non-chemical solutions to treat the problem. All of our technicians are state-registered for pest management and wood-destroying insects.
With weekend and evening services available, we will work to get you seen as quickly as possible to minimize damage to your home. If you are facing a carpenter bee or other pest infestation you can’t seem to get under control, call us at 1-800-682-5901, or fill out our online contact form.