As much as bees can be dangerous, the carpenter bees are not really harmful. However, they can be a nuisance as they ruin wood by boring into it especially if it is untreated or not painted. The ultimate guide on how to control carpenter bees includes various methods to apply if you note an active infestation by this bee species around your house.
Carpenter bees belong to the xylocopa family and are named so due to their behavior of burrowing into wood and forming galleries (nests) which is their habitat.
The Life Cycle of Carpenter Bees
Like all other insects, this flying carpenter bees too reproduce to give rise to young ones. The carpenter bees mate during the spring season and the female lays eggs in the galleries (bored tunnels). Carpenter bees are very beneficial since they’re pollinators and once the female has laid the eggs, they will supply the baby carpenter bees with pollen balls which the larvae feed on.
They undergo complete metamorphosis. To learn more on how the carpenter bees progress from the egg stage to adulthood as well as how long they live, click on the link below;
How Do Carpenter Bees Look Like?
There are two types of carpenter bees, i.e. the large and small carpenter bees. Large carpenter bees are about 12 to 25mm in body length, oval shaped and are very robust and sturdy. On the other hand, small carpenter bees are about 8mm in body length with a black shiny metallic-like surface and a few hairs here and there on the legs.
The male carpenter bee has a yellow markings on the face while the female is all black but both have a black shiny surfaced abdomen. Like other insects, they have six legs, a pair if wings as well as antennas, which they use as their sensing organs. The large carpenter bees are often confused with the bumble bees which they closely resemble in appearance.
How to Differentiate Carpenter Bees from Bumble BeesCarpenter bees resemble bumble bees however, they have a distinctive upper abdomen surface which is bare, black and very shiny while bumble bees have a hairy abdomen surface covered with black and yellow markings.
Another differentiating factor is where the two bees nest. The carpenter bees will make their nest in untreated or unpainted wood while the bumble bees nest underground and will rarely resurface unless when looking for flowers to feed on.
Do Carpenter Bees Stingers?
Carpenter bees are not social and that’s why you’ll always find them on their own unlike other bees which live in colonies. They’re docile and won’t sting unless when triggered to. It is important to note that the male carpenter bee does not have a stinger but the females do.
Most of the carpenter bees you find buzzing around your house are usually the male’s which are guarding their nest, thus it is difficult that it will sting you, after all it does not have a stinger. As for the female, she will not sting unless you really irritate and agitate her which is very rare.
Signs to Look Out for Carpenter Bee Infestation
Carpenter bees will always resurface during the winter season. Due to their ability to drill and nest in wood, you will always note sawdust like frass beneath the wood where they have drilled through. In addition to that, the carpenter bee holes are about ½” in diameter size and will often be found on unfinished wood or seasoned hardwoods and softwoods as well as rotting wood.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Without Killing Them
As earlier said, carpenter bees are docile and will only sting if triggered to. In addition to that, they are of economic importance as they are pollinator bees. There are a variety of carpenter bee control methods that will help you get rid of them, and at the same time, keep them alive. This methods include;
1. Use of Natural Oil Repellents
- Insects detest the smell of most natural oils. You can use this natural oils, such as citronella, lavender or tea tree to make their solutions then apply on the infested area.
- Mix a teaspoon of lavender/citronella/tea tree oil with a cup of water in a container.
- Stir the mixture thorough using a spoon then pour it into a spray can.
- Spray the solution around the affected area(s) and inside the holes where the carpenter bees reside.
- To ensure efficiency, you can apply as often as possible, once or twice a week, and keep track on the progress of the repellents on the bees.
- Use of a vacuum cleaner works best in newly infested areas.
- Ensure that your vacuum cleaner is strong enough so as to ensure complete removal of the carpenter bees.
- Since the carpenter bees are inactive in the evening, it is advisable to vacuum them out during this time.
- Use one hand to poke into the carpenter bee holes with a stick so as to lure them out.
- Then hold out the nozzle mouth of the vacuum cleaner with the other hand on the carpenter bee holes.
- Turn the vacuum cleaner and start sucking out some carpenter bees.
How to Kill Carpenter Bees Naturally
Use of pesticides is the most common method people apply when it comes to killing insects, carpenter bees included.
However, this is not always the best solution as most pesticides are toxic and harmful to our health. There are natural remedies which are as effective as the pesticides in killing carpenter bees, and they include;
1.Application of Diatomaceous Earth
- Put on some protective gloves and pour out the DE powder into a container.
- Apply the powdered diatomaceous earth during the day when the bees have left their nest.
- Sprinkle it into the holes and wait for their return, later in the day, in the evening.
- As the bees get into the nest, they’ll get covered in the DE powder.
- Since diatomaceous earth consists of microscopic sharp edges which cut through the bee’s skin, they will not have a chance of surviving the wrath of DE powder.
2.Block The Carpenter Bee Holes
- Using materials such as steel wool or caulk, close up all the entry/exit points the bees use.
- Stuff up the holes completely, closing them in their galleries (nests) which they’ve made inside the wood.
- Ensure that you completely block the holes to avoid escape of carpenter bees which may in turn re-infest your wood.
- In addition to make this method effective, you can first apply some repellent sprays then block the holes.
Home remedies on how to prevent carpenter bees
Home remedies are preventive measures which allow you to keep your home clear of carpenter bees infestation and in case of a successful termination, you’ll manage to prevent a re-infestation. This preventive measures include;
1. Wood treatment and painting
- Carpenter bees are attracted to build their nests in untreated wood or wood which is not painted.
- To ensure that your wood is not attacked by this wood boring insects, you can paint all the wood surrounding your house using polyurethane paints.
- It is also advisable to use hardwoods instead of softwoods which are often attacked by the carpenter bees.
- Alternatively, install vinyl siding, which is immune to the carpenter bees as they cannot bore into it.
- It is wise to do this before their season i.e., when they appear so as to ensure that at no cost, will the wood be infested.
- In addition, you can apply some insecticides, or repellent sprays on the wood to prevent them from being carpenter-infested.
2.Making Loud Noise
- Carpenter bees are usually calm and loud noise irritates them a lot.
- Using this knowledge, you can drive them away using your home theater and some really loud music.
- To ensure that this simple method works, place the speakers near the carpenter bee holes and nests.
- Then turn on the music and turn up the volume, sit calmly and wait for the bees to fly away.
NB: inform your neighbors beforehand, to avoid complaints due to noise disturbance.
3.Use of Citrus Spray
- Take some citrus fruits e.g. lemon or an orange, and cut them into pieces.
- Fill a pot with water, let it boil for some time then add the citrus fruits, and let them boil for a couple of minutes.
- Take out the boiled concoction and sieve it into a container or jug.
- Take a spray bottle and pour the already prepared citrus solution into the spray bottle.
- Spray the solution on the carpenter bee holes and since they can’t stand the odor of the solution, they will be gone.
- Alternatively, you can purchase an already made citrus spray, and apply it on the carpenter bee holes.
Carpenter Bee Trap
If you’ve tried all the above control methods and you’ve failed to get rid of the carpenter bees, this is probably the last solution you are left with. Carpenter bee traps are readily available in online stores and if within your abilities, you can build one at the comfort of your backyard using readily available household materials such as a plastic bottle, some wood etc. To learn how to build or make one, click on this link; How to build a carpenter bee trap or click above the picture & buy from amazon.