Are Carpenter Bees a Threat?

There are about 500 species of carpenter bees distributed in nearly every part of the world. Chances are very good that there are at least a few of these important pollinators living and breeding near you. Are these bees a threat to you or your home?

A carpenter bee looks acarpenterbee1 bit like a shiny bumblebee without the snazzy stripes. Most are all black or black with a patch of yellow on the head. They are big like a bumblebee and not very fast. They aren’t as social as most bees and nest in mated pairs or live in very small groups of females. While they don’t congregate in large hives, there may be many small nests in close proximity to one another. The males are usually put on nest-watching duty so you’ll see them hovering.

They have a reputation for “biting” rather than stinging. The males can’t sting but the females can and sometimes do if the nest is directly threatened. Both males and females bite but their ferocious-looking mandibles are only good for wood. They usually don’t pose a risk to people or pets for a sting but they can still be a danger in other ways.

They get their name from their habit of burrowing in wood. That wood could be an old tree stump or it could be the structural supports of your home. They don’t eat the wood like a termite. They build nests in it and use some of the leftovers to build partitions between the cells. The rest is discarded.

Dry, untreated and unfinished wood is the preferred nesting material of the carpenter bee. That makes your playset or outdoor building a perfect new home for these pests. Here’s how to tell if you have an active infestation of carpenter bees:

  • Round holes. Look for almost perfectly round holes in dry, unfinished wood. They’ll be about a half inch in diameter and there will probably be a little sawdust around the edges or on the ground under the hole.
  • Waste. Carpenter bees typically leave a greenish-yellow streak of fecal waste near their nest’s entry holes.
  • Bees. If you see the males hanging around, it stands to reason that you’ve probably got females laying eggs nearby.

Getting rid of carpenter bees often takes the help of a professional pest control company. Commercially available sprays are often used by homeowners and renters to deal with carpenter bees but this isn’t a very effective treatment. Sprays usually just flush out the bees and drive them to another location. That just means a new hole in your wood nearby the old, sprayed one. Pros have the tools to eliminate the problem and prevent it from recurring. Prevention is your best tool in fighting carpenter bees.

Carpenter bees can live for more than a season so they like to return to the same spots to nest. Make those places less appealing and they’ll find another place to live.

  • Apply pesticides. You’ll have to do this before the bees get active in the early spring. Most pesticides don’t last long in the elements. Rain and snow will wash them away.
  • Fill the holes. Fill up the holes once the larvae have left and no one will be able to come back. Do this in the fall or else they’ll just bore a new exit hole in your wood.
  • Paint. Carpenter bees show a distinct preference for unfinished wood. Apply some paint to deter them.

Preventing an infestation is always better than treating one. Take some time to keep your wooden structures safe.

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