Carpenter Bee Control

Carpenter Bee Control And Prevention

If you want to get rid of carpenter bees, do read this information first before you call in the bee exterminators!  You could save yourself unnecessary expense.  Also, prevention is better than cure, so take a look at my tips to help prevent future carpenter bee nests.


Firstly, A Little Information About Carpenter Bees And The Carpenter Bee Lifecycle

There are a number of different species of Carpenter Bees, but those most likely to cause you concern, tend to resemble bumblebees. In fact, bumblebees are social - they live in colonies, whereas carpenter bees are solitary.

They usually build nests in unpainted wood, or old, rotten woods, or damp, soft wood – these nests are tunnels, in which larvae are reared. And note, they do not eat the wood, they merely excavate the tunnels.

Males and females will hibernate in the nest over winter, and emerge the following year. Future generations may expand the size of the nest, creating further tunnels in the wood, and it is these future generations that can weaken the wood if allowed to expand greatly.

It is important to put the situation in perspective – Carpenter bees are rarely aggressive and stinging is unlikely to be a problem (only females can sting, but rarely do). They also provide an excellent pollination service, and bees are going through a difficult time just now. That said, avoid wafting and waving your arms around the bees, as this can encourage them to fly toward you. This will usually be the non-stinging males, but it can cause unnecessary panic. Males cannot sting or bite.

In the USA, some species in particular can cause damage over time, to wooden structures.  If the structure is crucial, then unfortunately, and despite them being lovely creatures, it may be necessary to do something about it.  This is always a dilemma for people such as myself who are keen to help bees.  However, in the USA where there are species that can genuinely cause damage to wooden homes, I'm afraid I have to take this into account.  Many people are struggling, and bringing up families.  I'm not in the business of imposing my values, to the extent that it is damaging to the situations of others.

So, if it is absolutely necessary, then you may need to get rid of them.


Carpenter Bee Control: Steps To Take

1. Firstly, locate the nest if you can.  This in itself may put your mind at ease, or it will show you whether or not you need to take urgent action, and where. 

2. If you do not know where the nest is:

  • check old, unpainted, soft wood first, because this is the kind of wood carpenter bees favour.
  • next, check any crucial structures that are vital for a building, and that you need to be concerned about, such as supporting structures.  Also check eaves and window frames.  If there are no nests in any of these locations, you can begin to check more widely. (However, I recommend you PROTECT these structures from carpenter bees for the future, by keeping them painted).

3. It's quite possibly you'll find the nest in an old table leg, or some other item that is not important.  If so, you can simply move the table well away from away from your home, or dispose of it. 

4. If you locate the nest, check whether it is possible to remove the wood containing the nest, and replace it.  This is a good step to take if it's possible.

5. But what if you need to save the wood?  Try these steps:

  • First, liberally apply a natural insect REPELLANT or one containing Picardin, (rather than insecticide such as DEET) - do ensure that it will not damage the wood FIRST.
  • Re-apply repeatedly, and observe the nest for a few days.
  • If the bees are returning, block up the hole with caulk or sealant. Paint the area. Spray a repellent around the area – such as surrounding brick work, and keep repeating. The objective is to discourage the bees from coming back.  DO ensure you are also protecting other areas, especially crucial structures.


Carpenter Bee Control – Prevention is better than cure!

If you are aware that you live in an area where carpenter bees are present, take action sooner rather than later to prevent problems:

  • Keep wooden fixtures painted and well maintained - especially vulnerable areas. 
  • If you are especially worried, you could also apply an organic repellent around vulnerable areas during Spring. I tend not to recommend pesticides, as I am concerned about using highly toxic chemicals in the environment that may have wider environmental impact and kill other bees unnecessarily. There are further issues regarding future use and disposal, and the potential to harm beneficial insects, children, birds and pets.


You may find this general page about carpenter bees interesting - it includes details of a query from a visitor to this site, and further advice about getting rid of carpenter bees, as well as some key differences between bumblebees and carpenter bees.  With regard to bumblebee nests, they are harmless, and can be left alone, since colonies will decline quite naturally at the end of the season.





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