Carpenter bees can cause serious damage to wooden structures, which is why you need to look out for them and keep them well away from your outdoor furniture.
Part of the Xylocopa genus of the Apidae, or bee family, carpenter bees are common in the USA, and while they are important pollinators of many flowering plants, they can burrow into sheds, pergolas, and much more.
Of course, prevention is better than cure, and we would always encourage wildlife-friendly methods where possible – we have included some options below.
How to get rid of carpenter bees: the best pest control-approved method
However, when we consulted pest control professionals, they said that from their experience, they had found dust insecticides to be the best and fastest solution.
Use a dust insecticide
For a swift solution, apply insecticidal dust, at Walmart, to the holes. 'The best way to get rid of carpenter bees is to use a powder pesticide dusted into the hole,' affirms Matt Smith, founder of Green Pest Management. 'The liquid ones absorb into the wood too quickly and don't have nearly the shelf life of a powder.'
Matt Smith has been working in the pest control industry for 14 years. He started Green Pest Management, Delaware-based pest control company, nine years ago. With his background and experience he is knowledgeable about a variety of pests, pest activity, and ways of dealing with infestations.
- Put on some protective clothing (a bee suit at Amazon will provide the most thorough protection against stings) and gloves
- Apply the dust using a hand duster, at Amazon, into each carpenter bee hole.
- Repeat the process once every season
Matt Smith shares another top tip: to avoid plugging up the holes: 'Many people will think that we plug up their hole now they are gone forever. That isn't the case – they can very easily just drill another hole. So we leave them open and allow them and any other carpenter bees to go in and get the powder pesticide on them,' he sayd.
If you want to plug up the holes, Matt Smith suggests doing it in the fall after a few days from the last application. You might need to make repeat applications, starting in early spring. Once the bees have died, seal up the holes to prevent them from being used by new bees. Lengths of wooden dowelling or caulk can be used to plug the holes.
Worried about getting too close to carpenter bees? Be aware that insecticides are hazardous to children and pets so keep them in the house while you work, and put on protective clothing. We would always advise calling in a professional firm to do the job for you.
Purchase a carpenter bee trap
You can use a carpenter bee trap, such as these wooden carpenter bee traps, at Amazon. The bees fly in but they can’t escape. Choose one that’s designed specifically for carpenter bees, and hang the trap close to the affected wood.
You can also make your own bee trap, constructing a wooden box with angled holes for the bee to enter, with a plastic jar fixed to the bottom – the bees get in and head towards the light but can’t get out.
Use items around the home
To get rid of carpenter bees with vinegar, mix up a strong solution of vinegar and water and spray it directly into the bees' holes. This will kill carpenter bee larvae, so if you are looking to deter them rather than kill them, you might want to look to more bee-friendly options.
Alternatively, you can use WD40, available from Amazon, to get rid of carpenter bees – spray it into their nest and they will die or flee quickly. However, this is another method of getting rid of carpenter bees that isn't wildlife friendly. Plus, WD40 is highly flammable, toxic, and has a very strong scent.
Try wildlife-friendly and eco options
Getting rid of carpenter bees without killing them is best for a wildlife-friendly garden. Try natural methods if possible and preventative measures – unlike getting rid of wasps, where you may seek to kill them if you have a real problem, it is far better to deter carpenter bees in the first place – they are only seen as pests because of the damage they can do to buildings.
A natural spray
For a natural solution that deters rather than kills them – our preferred route – use citrus scents, which they dislike, to get rid of them.
To make your own natural spray, boil up citrus fruit rinds in water, or add some drops of citrus oil to water, and spray around the tell-tale holes. It's thought that the scent of lemon is effective at deterring ants, too.
Alternatively, try a few drops of almond oil. If you’re worried about the solution marking the wood, try it out in an inconspicuous area first.
'For existing nests, I can recommend diatomaceous earth as a more eco-friendly solution,' says Nicole Carpenter, CEO at Black Pests. 'Applying it directly into the nest holes during the evening when bees are less active can be effective. Ensure you wear protective gear and follow safety guidelines.'
For those seeking a rapid solution to carpenter bee infestations, Nicole recommends you apply treatments directly into the nest holes during the evening hours when bees are less active and more likely to be inside their nests during this period – this typically results in a quicker resolution.
'Also, be prepared to apply treatments more than once if necessary. Some carpenter bees may survive the initial treatment, so periodic follow-up treatments may be needed to ensure complete eradication,' she says.
Nicole Carpenter first began working at Black Pest Prevention when she was a junior in high school. While attending N.C. State University she continued to work for the company and has since worked through the organization to now becoming its CEO. Black Pest Prevention is a Charlotte pest control company that serves North and South Carolina.
It’s said that carpenter bees are affected by sound, so by turning up the volume close to the carpenter bees’ home, the vibrations might encourage them to move out. Do explain to your neighbors before blasting them with noise for a couple of days.
Another option is to try wind chimes, at Amazon, which may be enough to deter them from settling.
Does aluminum foil deter carpenter bees?
'Aluminum foil will prevent them from going in that hole, but you have to remember that if they drilled that hole they can drill another one,' says pest control expert Matt Smith.
Where do carpenter bees go at night?
Carpenter bees have diurnal behavior, which means they are active during daylight hours, typically seeking shelter in their nest holes within wood surfaces during the nighttime.
How do I recognize carpenter bees?
Unlike honeybees or bumblebees, carpenter bees don’t live in colonies, preferring to excavate a tunnel to lay their eggs.
Also, carpenter bees are much larger and have black and shiny abdomens. The males don’t sting though they can fly too close for comfort if they feel you’re on their territory. But bother a female carpenter bee at your peril, as they can sting.
How can I spot carpenter bee damage?
To spot carpenter bee damage, take a closer look at wooden structures around the yard. Carpenter bees like to bore their way into wood – especially sheds, pergolas, posts, porches, window trim and even the eaves of the house. Once they’ve bored a smooth, round hole, about ½ in in diameter, they make a right-angled turn to construct a burrow, hidden from sight, creating cells for individual eggs.
You might spot sawdust by the holes where a bee has been boring. Older holes can also be enlarged or reused by the bees. Adult bees can overwinter in the tunnels, emerging in spring to mate. Over time, the damage can result in decay, moisture retention, and rot.
To make wooden structures much less appealing to carpenter bees, it's vital to varnish or paint them – carpenter bees love untreated or unstained wood, but hate wood that has been treated. Using an outdoor wood varnish, at Amazon, is an easy fix and will protect wood structures from the weather, too.
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Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.
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