Carpenter bees are among those pests who can damage your house as they chew the wooden parts of it. The thing is, carpenter bees are useful. They are important pollinators. Not only that, but these bees are also docile and rarely sting unless forced to. Due to this, you might even wonder whether getting rid of carpenter bees is necessary.
If your house is infested with carpenter bees and you don’t do something about it, the damage done will worsen over time. Worse still, the damage results in more serious problems like moisture retention, decay, and rot. Of course, you want none of those. Worry not. Here, we will tell you how to get rid of carpenter bees.
Getting to Know Carpenter Bees
Before getting rid of carpenter bees, it is a good idea to know what we are facing first. So, what are carpenter bees? They are a member of the Apidae family, genus Xylocopa. They are named “carpenter” because of their nesting behavior which involves burrowing into dead wood to create tunnels in which they lay their eggs.
As we mentioned earlier, carpenter bees are important pollinators, especially for shallow or open-faced flowers. If you are a gardener, you probably already know about this. Carpenter bees are naturally docile. Unless provoked or handled aggressively, they are unlikely to sting. Not to mention the males don’t even have stingers too. They just intimidate other animals with their buzzing sound.
A carpenter bee is 1/2 to 1 inch long. In terms of appearance, there are variations in color. Some carpenter bees have black and yellow colors. Others, black and orange. Carpenter bees are the most active in between mid to late spring and early summer. At this period of time, carpenter bees are looking for mates and sites for nesting.
Carpenter bees are not social animals. After mating, the male bees will be around the nest, protecting it. The one who constructs said nest is a solitary female, who create long tunnels in a dead wood where she will lay eggs. After the eggs are laid, they will become larva, pupa, and then adult in about seven weeks.
Nesting and Habits
The main reason why people are getting rid of carpenter bees is that they cause damage to wooden parts of their house. The most interesting thing about this is because carpenter bees don’t eat wood. Yes, they bore through it and create holes. But this is done in order to build a nest and a place to lay eggs.
A carpenter bees nest has a single entrance. This entrance branches out to several tunnels known as cells. These are where the eggs are laid. A new nest measures approximately 4 to 6 inches long. Reused ones, however, can reach up to 10 feet long. Although impressive, you don’t want such a nest in your house.
After the cell is ready, the mother bee will then provide each tunnel with a platform made of nectar and pollen known as a pollen loaf. Each pollen loaf has a single egg on it. This will be the food for larvae when they hatch. The mother bee then divides the cell with a wall made of chewed wood pulp.
It takes about seven weeks for larvae to turn into adult carpenter bees. What you should know is that adult carpenter bees often times overwinter either in their original tunnels or abandoned ones. These adult bees stuck the tunnels with pollen so they can survive the cold. Adult bees that survive emerge in spring to find mate, repeating the cycle.
What kind of wood that these bees like? Aged, unpainted, and soft wood. That doesn’t necessarily mean hard woods are safe, however. Some carpenter bee species prefer hard wood than soft wood. So yes, you are not safe if you have hard wood parts in your house. Getting rid of carpenter bees may still be necessary.
That’s the type of wood. What about the structure? Do carpenter bees target specific wooden structure? It seems they are not. For carpenter bees, any type of wooden structure is suitable to be a nesting site. Window trim, posts, porch ceilings, pergolas, patio furniture, gates, fascia boards, decks, you name it. All are suitable sites for these bees.
Getting Rid of Carpenter Bees: Signs of Infestation
Before you are getting rid of carpenter bees, you need to know whether carpenter bees really infest your house. So the next question is, what are the signs of carpenter bees infestation? There are actually several signs of infestation. The most obvious one being round, 1/2-inch holes on the wooden surface. This is nest’s entry point.
Another sign of an infestation is the presence of male carpenter bees nearby. Do you see carpenter bees hovering around? Remember, a female carpenter bee builds the nest while the male bees protect it. If you see several male bees hovering around a spot, it may indicate that there is a female bee and a nest nearby.
Other signs of infestation include
- A fan-shaped stain underneath the entry hole
- Scraping sound from inside the wood
- A pile of sawdust outside the entry hole
Why Getting Rid of Carpenter Bees?
Alright, so why are we getting rid of carpenter bees? They are useful as pollinators, relatively harmless unless provoked and cause aesthetic rather than structural damage to wooden structures. Why? Firstly, aesthetic damage happens when carpenter bees are doing it once. The thing is, female bees sometimes return to the same nesting sites for years.
Even small damage can be a problem if done over and over and left untreated. What is first aesthetic damage, can be structural damage over time. Imagine a female bee continue tunneling through a wooden structure in your house over the years. At first, the damage may not be unnoticeable. Years later, it can lead to various problems.
The damage over time is a good reason for getting rid of carpenter bees but that is only one example. Another reason is that carpenter bees attract another animal that can cause damage. In this case, woodpecker. Woodpeckers are the predator of carpenter bees. While the damage caused by carpenter bees are small, the same can’t be said to woodpeckers.
Woodpeckers like to eat the eggs of carpenter bee. And to get the eggs, they peck at the already damaged wooden structures. This causes additional, worse damage than carpenter bees alone. This is why getting rid of carpenter bees is important. If they don’t cause damage, they attract those who do.
Getting Rid of Carpenter Bees Organically
Alright, now let’s talk about the how. In this section, we will tell you the organic ways of getting rid of carpenter bees. There are six ways you can try: a bee hotel, citrus oil, tennis racket, hang a decoy wasp nest, play music, and lay a trap. Let’s start.
1. A hotel for the bees
If you are a gardener, you probably know how important carpenter bees are as pollinators. Instead of getting rid of carpenter bees by killing them, you can add bee hotels to provide nest sites for the female bees. This way, carpenter bees will still create a nest but do not damage your house.
Typically, bee hotels are made from wood tubes, paper, or removable bamboo. Bee hotels are widely available and easy to find online. With bee hotels, you are getting rid of carpenter bees from your house to an alternative spot. Your house will not be damaged and the bees can help pollinate the garden. It is a win-win solution.
2. Citrus oil
Citrus oil can be used as a natural repellent for carpenter bees. Not only it is effective but it is also can be made easily at home as well. Or, if you don’t have the time to make it, you can always purchase a bottle of citrus oil to help in getting rid of carpenter bees.
To make citrus oil, do the followings
- Cut some peels of citrus fruits
- Put the cut peels in a pan
- Cover the peels with water
- Turn on the heat and bring to a boil
- Reduce the heat and then simmer for about 10 minutes
- Turn off the heat and let it cool
- After it has been cooled, strain and pour the water into a spray bottle
3. A tennis racket
Of all the methods here, this one is the most physical. You are getting rid of carpenter bees by, well, smashing them with a tennis racket. During spring, when the carpenter bees are looking for sites to create a nest, you can see some of them flying around. This is where you dispatch them with your racket.
4. Hang a decoy wasp nest
If in an area there are wasps, carpenter bees will not nest in that area. All you need is to create a decoy wasp nest and hang it. To create the decoy, fill a brown paper bag with plastic bags, paper, or moss. Tie the open end off and hang the “nest” in the area you want to protect.
Bees can “hear” sounds with frequency up to 500 Hz and communicate with each other through vibroacoustic. In other words, bees are sensitive to vibrations. You can force female bees to move from their existing nests by playing music with low frequencies. Place a speaker against the wall just beside the nest and increase the volume.
6. Lay a trap
Another organic way to get rid of carpenter bees is to lay a trap to catch the bees. The trap is made of two connected parts, a wooden structure with angled holes at the top and a jar or plastic container at the bottom. Place the trap underneath the nest and bees will enter it.
Getting Rid of Carpenter Bees Chemically
Getting rid of carpenter bees can also be done using chemicals. For example, dressing the exposed wood in your house, filling abandoned holes, using insecticide spray, spraying carburetor cleaner, and spraying petroleum, among others. You need to be careful when you use chemicals, especially flammable ones like petroleum and products that are petroleum-based. Anyway, here’s how to do it.
1. Dress exposed wood
You can dissuade carpenter bees from making a nest by dressing exposed wood. You can do the dressing either by painting, staining, or varnishing. Of the three, the most effective is painting. Before you start dressing the exposed surfaces, be sure to fill any existing damage with wood, putty or caulk filler as carpenter bees are attracted to them.
2. Fill abandoned holes
Find some abandoned holes? In that case, fill the entrances with steel wool, spray foam insulation, wadded aluminum foil, a dowel, or caulk. After you fill the holes, smooth them and paint. Remember, some carpenter bees return to their original holes or find abandoned ones. Filling the holes should discourage carpenter bees from entering these holes.
3. Insecticide spray
Getting rid of carpenter bees using organic means may be the preferred method. However, sometimes you just have to use the most effective means possible. In this case, using insecticide spray. Insecticides will get rid of not only the queen bee but also the eggs. Use the spray at night and be sure to follow the product’s instructions carefully.
4. Carburetor cleaner
Not having an insecticide spray doesn’t mean getting rid of carpenter bees can’t be done quickly and effectively. You can also use carburetor cleaner as an alternative to insecticides. Carburetor cleaner will kill any insects, including carpenter bees. Use it carefully and keep in mind that the carburetor cleaner is flammable.
Lastly, using petroleum. Just pour a little bit of gasoline in a spray bottle and spray the entrance of the nest regularly. Keep spraying until there is no more activity in the nest. Like using any other chemicals, you need to do it carefully. Use protection when it is necessary. When you are finished, label the spray bottle to prevent accidental misuse.
These are how getting rid of carpenter bees are done. You can do it organically or you can do so using chemicals. Both are viable options. Choose the method that suits you best. Now that you know how to get rid of carpenter bees, there is no need to worry if your house is infested.