How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees – The Ultimate Guide
It can be a nuisance to have an infestation of carpenter bees around your home, especially if you live in a log cabin.
They leave unsightly round holes, make a loud buzzing noise and the males, while harmless, can be quite intimidating.
However, these insects are incredibly useful in our ecosystem and act as important pollinators so it’s important to try and get rid of them as gently as possible.
We’ll talk you through the many different natural ways that you can deter these bees, including how to prevent them from coming back, as well as preventative measures you can take to ensure you don’t get an infestation in the first place.
What are Carpenter Bees?
Carpenter bees are fantastic pollinators, playing a vital part in the ecosystem.
They are the largest bees in North America and therefore can withstand wind and rain that smaller insects and bees can’t, allowing them to carry on pollinating when others cannot.
They are very docile creatures and females will only sting in severe conditions.
Males can be quite intimidating, flying at higher speeds towards anything they sense as a threat, however they don’t have a stinger at all.
Carpenter bees are sometimes confused with bumblebees, however, these bees have a black shiny hairless abdomen (rather than the hairy bumblebee) and they also have different nesting habits.
They are typically around 0.5 to 1 inch long and are usually black, however, some species have yellow or orange markings, iridescent wings, and even bright blue body hair.
There are quite a few different species of carpenter bees, but it’s the larger bees (Xylocopa) that tend to be noticed making nests.
Unfortunately, Carpenters bore into wood to make their nests and often choose log homes or wooden structures to make their homes in.
What Types of Wood do Carpenter Bees Prefer?
Carpenter bees prefer to nest in softwoods such as pine, which is why they are a common pest in log cabins.
They prefer untreated and weathered wood. There are some species that prefer hardwood though.
They don’t actually eat the wood though, instead, they bore holes using their mandibles as a rasp and vibrate their bodies which acts like a chisel.
They like any wooden structures – fascia boards, gates, ceilings, windows ledges, pergolas, and patio furniture are all desirable places for a carpenter bee.
So naturally, the best way to ensure that these insects don’t make your home their own residence is to make your wood as undesirable to them as possible.
Why do Carpenter Bees Make Holes?
Once an exterior hole is made, the bee burrows roughly 1-2 inches into the wood, and then takes a right-angle turn and carries on tunneling along the grain. These tunnels are known as galleries.
The galleries that they make usually measure around 4 – 6 inches in length, however, if they reuse the same gallery over the years, they can extend to 10 feet long!
She then splits the rows up into cells to create space for each of her eggs. Once she’s laid her eggs, she puts a ball of pollen and regurgitated nectar inside the cell and blocks the entrance with wood pulp.
The eggs hatch in around a week, and the offspring will feed on the food left for them until they are ready to leave, which is usually around 7 weeks later.
How Much Damage Do Carpenter Bees Actually Do?
The damage that they cause usually isn’t as serious as other pests such as carpenter ants, as they tend to drill their tunnels along the grain which doesn’t affect the structural integrity of a building.
These bees don’t pose much of a threat to humans due to them rarely stinging, but it can be quite frightening seeing bees crawling out of their holes, and seeing the males flying back and to aggressively on guard.
They are quite large insects and create a loud buzzing noise which can be very intimidating, however, it is important to remember that they are actually very gentle and docile.
Males cannot sting and the female will only sting if she is feeling threatened.
There are a few instances where the damage can begin to affect the structural integrity of a log cabin though.
If the females continue to use old holes and the galleries get too long, this will start to affect the structure of the building.
Also, if these holes are left unchecked for long periods of time, they can retain moisture and lead to rot and decay.
Another danger is that woodpeckers may try to work their way in to get the larvae which create even larger holes and more unsightly damage. Their feces can also stain the wood.
Carpenter bees are not social insects and tend to live solitary lives, so you won’t usually have to deal with a large hive.
Signs that You Have a Carpenter Bee Infestation
These bees make small holes in softwood surfaces such as fence posts, window frames, sills, eaves, overhangs, decks, and the logs of log homes. These round holes are usually about 0.5 inches in diameter.
The wood inside the circular holes will usually look quite fresh, however, it’s important to bear in mind that bees can reuse old holes that have been made too.
Another telltale sign is sawdust (frass) on the floor near these holes. You might also notice pollen and bee excrement around the entrance of the hole, which will be yellow in color.
Another sign of an infestation is bees flying around regularly. You’ll notice that the males can seem quite aggressive and will fly backward and forwards quite quickly in order to protect the nest, however they cannot sting.
In some cases, you can even hear them rasping away at the wood to create the galleries.
Treatment for Carpenter Bees
Given that these creatures play a vital role in our ecosystem, the best way to get rid of them is through using natural methods rather than chemicals that can harm and kill them.
The best time to treat holes is in early spring while they’re still hibernating. If you can’t wait for that long, you can treat the holes during the evening when the nests are least active.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Naturally
Play Loud Music
Bees are sensitive to the vibrations which are created by loud noises, so one of the simplest ways to drive them out is to choose a song with a heavy baseline and blast out some music.
You’ll probably need to do this for around 2 -3 days, so this is only ideal if you don’t have neighbors nearby!
The vibrations from the music will disorientate them and cause them to evacuate their nest.
Make a Natural Spray
Carpenter bees dislike strong smells such as lemons, oranges, and limes. You can make your own citrus solution to spray around the nest.
Boil the peels of citrus fruit in a pot of water, and then when it cools, put it into a spray bottle. If you don’t have time to make your own, you can pick up a bottle of orange or lemon concentrate.
Bees are also repelled by essential oils such as lavender and tea tree oil. You can make a diluted solution for any of these ingredients and use it in the same way.
To make a tea tree repellant, mix one tablespoon of tea tree oil with eight ounces of water. You can apply it with a spray bottle.
These insects dislike garlic too, so you could try making a natural garlic spray to deter them. Leave a garlic clove in oil for a few days, then add white vinegar to the mixture and add it to a spray bottle. Garlic powder also works; you can sprinkle this around the entrances of the nests.
Almond oil contains Benzaldehyde which is another repellant for bees. Once applied this oil will work for between three and four months.
You’ll probably need to apply these sprays every day for a week or so until the bees are driven away.
Carpenter Bee Traps
Traps are one of the most hassle-free and safe ways to remove carpenter bees. Traps typically consist of a jar with a wooden top with angled holes drilled into it.
Once bees enter, they are unable to get back out and when they start to release pheromones, they will attract other bees. Once you’ve trapped them, they can be moved to another site.
Carpenter Bee Hotel
Bees are fantastic pollinators and if you don’t mind having the bees on your property, you could place a purpose-built bee home along the edge of your property.
Choose a place away from your home, and either buy a premade bee hotel or make your own.
These homes have inviting predrilled holes and can be used to easily relocate the bees.
Simply hang the home close to their current nest to attract them, and then move it away once they’re all relocated.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Chemically
If the natural methods of bee control don’t work, there are a number of other ways to remove the bees, however, you should only use these as a last resort.
If you’re using chemicals, make sure that you wear personal protective gear including gloves and eyewear to protect yourself from potential bee stings.
There are a few different types of products to apply to nests including foam sprays, liquid sprays, and insecticidal dust.
Spray is typically more effective on newer infestations, while insecticidal dust can be forced deeper into the holes and is better suited to infestations that are more established.
There are quite a few solutions that you can use to eradicate carpenter bees.
Fipro foaming aerosol contains fipronil which is deadly to bees. It comes in a canister with a straw applicator tip to spray expanding foam into the holes which the bees had made.
Recommended sprays include Cyzmic CS Insecticide, Demon WP and FenvaStar Cap. Suggested insecticide dusts, include D Fense Dust and Tempo Dust. If you choose to use dust, you will need a duster to apply the dust too.
However, please do remember the importance of these creatures and in general, they are very docile and don’t cause much harm. If you can, you should try and gently lure them out with one of the natural methods.
Plug the Holes
Carpenter bees like to return to the same nest year after year, so it’s important that you plug the holes once you’ve got rid of the bees.
Once you have used any of these methods, you want to fill the holes with wood putty to prevent reinfestation.
Another alternative to blocking the holes that have been treated is to soak steel wool in vinegar and insert it into the holes.
This is impossible for the bees to penetrate so will act as a temporary barrier to deter them, which can then be filled at a later point with wood putty.
Professional Pest Exterminator
If all else fails, you should hire a professional pest exterminator to remove the bees. Sometimes they are able to relocate them without harming them.
The cost will depend on the location of the nest and will usually be anywhere from $200 to $400. Many exterminators will offer a free inspection to help you determine the size of the nest and the cost of the job.
As with most things, prevention is better than cure and will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
Early fall is the best time to take preventative measures, because the new adults will have emerged from the nest, and the mature bees won’t be quite ready to settle in for the winter.
Because carpenter bees dislike treated wood, the best way to prevent them is to make sure you stain or varnish any exterior wood.
If you are keen to keep the wood around your home in a natural state, you should at the very least apply a quality clear sealant to the wood.
Decoy Wasp Nest
Carpenter bees don’t like nesting in the same place as wasps, so as a deterrent, you could hang a decoy wasps nest.
These are available in many hardware stores, or you can make your own by stuffing a brown paper bag with lightweight material and hanging it somewhere close to the outside of your home.
Hopefully, you now have plenty of ideas about how to get rid of carpenter bees on your property.
While they can be a bit of a nuisance and leave unsightly holes it’s important to remember the many benefits of these useful little creatures.
Carpenter bees are important pollinators so the best way to get rid of them is using one of the natural methods so that they will move to another location (ideally not someone else’s home!)
If you’d like some other general maintenance tips for looking after your log home, read our ultimate guide to log cabin maintenance article.
We’d love to hear how you get on, and if you have any questions, drop us a comment below and we’ll get back to you.