By: Jackie Carroll
Carpenter bees look a lot like bumblebees, but their behavior is very different. You might see them hovering around the eaves of a house or wooden deck rails. Although they pose little threat to people because they rarely sting, they can cause serious structural damage to exposed wood. Read on to find out how to get rid of carpenter bees.
Although carpenter bees look a lot like bumblebees, you can easily see the difference. Both types of bees have black bodies with a covering of yellow hair. The yellow hair covers most of a bumblebee’s body, while carpenter bees only have hair on their head and thorax, leaving the lower half of their body solid black.
Female carpenter bees excavate a small cell off the gallery she has created, and then forms a ball of pollen inside the cell. She lays a single egg near the pollen ball and seals off the cell with a partition made of chewed wood. A few days after laying six or seven eggs in this manner, she dies. Females are most likely to sting if interrupted while they are provisioning their nests. The larvae mature six to seven weeks after the eggs hatch.
Female carpenter bees chew one-half-inch wide holes in wood surfaces and then create tunnels, chambers and cells for larvae within the wood. A little pile of coarse sawdust beneath the hole is a sign that carpenter bees are at work. One season’s work by a single carpenter bee doesn’t cause serious damage, but if several bees use the same entrance hole and build additional galleries off the main tunnel, the damage can be extensive. The bees often return to use the same hole year after year, hollowing out more galleries and tunnels.
In addition to the bee damage, woodpeckers may peck at the wood in an effort to get to the larva inside, and rotting fungi may attack holes on the surface of the wood.
Begin your program of carpenter bee control by painting all unfinished wood surfaces with oil or latex paint. Stain is not as effective as paint. Carpenter bees avoid freshly painted wood surfaces, but over time, the protection wears off.
The residual effects from treating wood with insecticides only lasts about two weeks, so keeping wood surfaces treated is an endless and nearly impossible task. Carpenter bees don’t get a lethal dose of insecticide from tunneling into insecticide-treated wood, but the insecticide does act as a deterrent. Use insecticides containing carbaryl (Sevin), cyfluthrin or resmethrin to treat the area around existing holes. Seal the holes with a small wad of aluminum foil and then caulk about 36 to 48 hours after insecticide treatment.
If you prefer to take a natural approach, try using boric acid around the carpenter bee entry holes.
Pyrethrins are natural insecticides derived from chrysanthemums. They are less toxic than most insecticides and they do a good job of repelling carpenter bees. Spray around the entry hole and then plug the hole as you would when using other insecticides.
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Getting rid of carpenter bees, the pests responsible for those small holes dotting your deck or siding, can be as easy as painting the wood. Dealing with an infestation of carpenter bees takes more work and more expense, as you may need the expertise of a pest control professional.
Why is painting wood a solution? Carpenter bees love to build their nests in your unpainted, weathered wood. Softwoods such as redwood, cypress, cedar, oak, and pine make an especially attractive invitation for these bees.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, or buzzing to the chase. How do you get rid of carpenter bees? First, make sure you’re not dealing with bumblebees, then grab some paint (not sealer), traps or pesticide and put your carpenter bees out of work.
Carpenter bees known in Latin name as Xylocopa and Ceratina. Xylocopa refers to large carpenter bees, the most common one. While Ceratina is the small carpenter bees. The size of Ceratina is less than 8 millimeters, while the Xylocopa is about 12 until 25 millimeters long. Their color varies from black, greenish black, or purplish. There are these 2 categories of carpenter bees. They are common throughout United States, and live in solitary way. So one nest will be for one bee, not a colony. You may give an attention to this fact, because it means that the female bees may sting you when they feel in danger, but not in groups. So there is possibility that you don’t notice any carpenter bee around you.
As we mentioned above, carpenter bees have high preference toward untreated woods and weathered softwood. They build a burrow tunnels inside wood to set up a nest. The tunnels are usually around 4 to 8 inches long, with ½ inch wide suit for their body. You can easily spot their nest by holes in the wood surfaces, mostly in untreated or unpainted woods . They don’t like oil-painted or coated woods. But if you are not sure which of the holes on your wood furniture belong to the carpenter bees, spot their in and out route. Usually carpenter bees prefer hole with open downward position to the ground as their tough spot. The nest is used by the female carpenter bees to lay their eggs until hatch. Their hole is commonly very neat. They like to make a hole in the decks, siding, porches, doors, fences, wooden lawn furniture, and other wooden things around your living space. As a result? Carpenter bees may damage your garden furnishings and structural beams in your home.
Generally speaking, carpenter bees can’t cause detrimental harm to your home or property. While they can eat many holes throughout your porch, theses tunnels typically don’t cause serious structural damage to wood. However, if there is a large number of carpenter bees allowed to tunnel throughout the same pieces of wood for years without being disturbed, then that’s a different story. In the most severe cases, a support beam could potentially collapse. Yet, it’s important to note that these are exceptions rather than the average.
When reviewing the wood of your home, there are several visual cues you should look for. Perhaps the most common visual sign of carpenter bees (outside of round holes) is a yellowish-brown stain located directly beneath the hole. As a carpenter bee enters the tunnel, they eliminate their wastes. Therefore, over time there can be a noticeable collection of this strangely-colored material.
Another common sign of carpenter bees are holes and damage to wood caused by Woodpeckers. These birds love to feast on carpenter bee larvae. Therefore, in their search for larvae, they can cause a significant amount of exterior damage. Should you see small holes around the exterior of wood, it’s safe to assume these are caused by Woodpeckers searching for bee larvae.
Perhaps the most damaging consequence of carpenter bees is an indirect result of their infestation. As tunnels caused by carpenter bees and holes caused by Woodpeckers attempting to eat bee larvae, moisture and water can make its way into the inner-structure of wood. Over time, this moisture can result in fungus, mold and other detrimental effects. Generally, when the structural integrity of wood is compromised, it’s not directly because of the tunnels, rather the weakening of wood caused by excess moisture, mold and fungus.
First of all, if a female carpenter bee bites you, you will need to seek help from a specialist urgently, as the sting is very toxic. Such bites are most dangerous for people who are prone to allergic reactions to bee venom. However, these species mostly hide in the nest and don’t fly outside often, so the chance of getting stung is minimal. If it happens, you should immediately consult a doctor.
Males have no stings. Therefore, they are safe for human health and life, but that can’t be said about females. Female carpenter bees are very aggressive, and with a bite, they leave a sting with poison in the human body. A toxic substance causes an allergic reaction of varying degrees of intensity.
Each person has individual characteristics, so it is impossible to predict the body’s response to this poison. An ordinary carpenter bee stings quite painfully. Thus, getting a bee sting is always accompanied by sharp pain and redness of the place where the insect left a bite. Besides, the affected area of the skin may swell, and some people suffer from allergies in the form of rash and itching.
Sometimes, there may be signs, such as a drop in pressure, the appearance of red spots on the body, and respiratory failure. Allergy sufferers are advised to stay away from bees, as bee venom can cause anaphylactic shock and other unpleasant consequences.
The poison introduced into the wound provokes large edema immediately that hurts then for a long time. The active substance has a depressing effect on the central nervous system, and often, there is a nervous shock. If one gets stung in the throat, it might be a deadly danger.
The second reason why you need to get rid of these species as soon as you spot them living in your house is that one female bee lays about six eggs during the entire warm season. Thus, a bee family grows very quickly.
Third, wood bees are very dangerous for your farm buildings. They can destroy structures of any scale, gnawing wide tunnels in them. Bees can ruin even a thick layer of wood in a few years.
Forth, as I have already mentioned, a growing carpenter bee colony is extremely attractive for woodpeckers. The smell of the larvae attracts birds, and they can detect a bee family from several kilometers, flying to the habitat of the insects. Trying to get the larvae, woodpeckers can destroy the structure of a tree or even a wooden wall. Therefore, you need to take measures to eradicate carpenter bees as quickly as possible.
Getting rid of wood bees in a wooden house or on the territory of a summer cottage is somewhat tricky. Insects do not stay into groups, so they have to be destroyed almost one at a time. Here are a few tips on how to get rid of these species from your place.
There are just a few plants that work against bees- but not many.
The easiest and guaranteed answer to this question would be to not plant flowering plants.
Bees are only attracted to plants where they can feed and pollinate. Plants that don’t flowers have nothing to attract bees.
So theoretically, if you just stick with non-flowering plants, you should be safe from bees entering your garden.
But this does pose a limitation. Most plants are only attractive because they flower. As a gardener, wouldn’t you agree?
Bees are also necessary for pollination to continue the propagation of your plants. And we all know how essential to the ecosystem bees are.
They’re the most significant insect pollinators on the planet and have evolved to do their job very well. Flowering plants have evolved just for this purpose and develop those mesmerizing colors to attract them.
That’s why it’s hard to find a flowering plant that repels bees. Many gardeners have the same dilemma- they want the pretty plants but don’t want to deal with the bees.
Perhaps they don’t want to get stung or just hate having a ton of bees buzzing around. Others want to protect their pets, livestock, or kids. Or they’re highly allergic to stings.
Whatever the case, there are some plants that can be used to keep bees away. I’ve written about this topic before, but that was just a small list of bee-repelling plants. This list is more complete and will give you a few additional options.
Pennyroyal is an unpopular plant in my opinion that could use more recognition.
The plant has a unique look and does very well in planted containers. It’s also a very small, yet effective plant to keep bees away.
Plant it in small containers and place them around areas where bees are present. Cover areas such as your window sills, patio, BBQ, deck, outdoor furniture, or around your yard.
Pennyroyal does need well-draining soil with decent sun and plenty of water to keep it in tip-top shape. This plant grows through zones 6 through 9.
Definitely consider getting some of these plants as a “secret” repellent plant. They blend right into your other plants.
Geraniums should be planted in the red variety to be effective against bees. They can’t see the color red as they’re colorblind to it, so it’ll be a perfect plant to “distract” the bees.
The way geranium works is that bees will be attracted to the flowering plant and try to extract pollen from it. Since they can’t see the red, they’ll be clueless and think it’s just another source of food.
However, the flowers actually have no pollen (or very little) and will actually repel the bees with a powerful scent as soon as they get close. This is a flower that bees aren’t attracted to- once they find out that the flower is a trap!
These plants are easy to grow outdoors and like full sun for at least 6H a day.
They don’t tolerate cold temperatures well, so check your hardiness zones before you buy. They also need to be moved to a warmer location during the winter until frost is over. Geraniums do well through zones 8-12.
Do bees hate cucumber for some reason?
Cucumber slices are technically a plant, so I thought I’d include that here.
You just take any cucumber and slice it up. Then throw the slices in various places around your yard. Bees seem to hate cucumber and will keep away from it.
They don’t like the bitterness of the cucumber slices. You can also plant fresh cucumber as a repelling plant and also have some cucumber to add to your salad when it matures.
Either way, cucumber is a proven repellent for bees and wasps.
The veggie requires warm weather and plenty of water, so make sure you’re in the right hardiness zone before planting.
Otherwise, you’re better off just buying cucumber from the store and slicing it like a bee repellent. Cucumber does well in zones 4-12.
Cloves are spicy and sweet. Their aroma makes an excellent DIY solution.
They’re spicy and strong, and they tend to avoid clove plants. You can buy clove and plant them around your yard to keep them at bay.
Cloves are easy to grow and do well in zones 2-10 after the first autumn frost.
As pointed out by a reader, there are garlic cloves (“cloves of garlic”) and there are actual CLOVES- which are a unique plant that have a spicy taste. Both garlic and cloves can be used as natural pest repellents. However, they’re not interchangeable.
In this case, the actual CLOVE plant makes an excellent pest repellent. You can even combine it to create a powerful combo (stick some cloves directly into lemon or lime slices).
These will trap the bees and wasps- and then eat them up.
Pitcher plants are the cousin to venus flytraps. These plants are basically pear-shaped funnels which trap their prey- bees and wasps included.
As they land on the sweet-smelling plant, they slip and fall into the pitcher where they’re trapped by a sticky substance. So it’s actually like a 100% natural bee and wasp trap.
These plants are carnivorous and will eat up and digest many different pests.
Pitcher plants are difficult to grow, as they need perfect soil conditions and only rainwater or distilled water. You can’t use any other type of water- even bottled.
The water must be 100% pure to avoid mineral buildup as these plants won’t utilize the excess minerals provided by the water. They actually just get their minerals from the bugs they catch, so adding more minerals from the water is detrimental.
Pitcher plants do well in zones 7-9.
Marigolds are one plant that flowers and bees avoid. For those who really want a flower that repels bees, this would be the “one.”
The strong odor marigold plants release is a natural repellent for bees and many other bugs. Note that nectar honeybees will still land on marigold and feed.
However, wasps and other bee species will be repelled.
This plant also needs no care. You literally just plant it, water it, and forget about it. Marigold is very hardy and will do well in direct sunlight with regular watering.
Don’t plant marigold in a pot.
Plant it directly into the soil. It’s a quick-growing plant and needs a lot of space so pots don’t work. Get the orange or red varieties of marigold for best results. Marigold does well from zones 9+.
When you see one small half inch round holes in your wooden structure or wooden furniture, you can be sure you are under attack. It is the carpenter bee – and if there is one, there are many more lining up behind it! Don’t waste time and get ready to eradicate wood bees from your premises and save your house. Of course, you can use store-bought repellents, but they are full of harmful chemicals. They are a big no-no for households which have small children and pets. The answers to all your dismal doubts and questions on how to control wood bees are surprisingly simple. So here is a list of home remedies to get rid of carpenter bees!
Why are the carpenter bees attacking your wood structures?
2. Vacuum cleaner
This is a very easy method of getting rid wood boring bees, especially if it is a new nest. Grab the smallest nozzle of your vacuum cleaner and turn to the strong vacuuming option. Be sure to do this in the evening, because that is when all the bees stay home. Put the nozzle into the holes and suck them all out – check that there aren’t any left in the holes.
Boric powder usually repel all kinds insects – they work on carpenter bees as well. Sprinkle some boric powder around and in the holes to drive the bees away. Spraying boric acid into the holes will also kill the bee larvae effectively to prevent a future population from growing. This method has a high 86% rate of success!
Bees get agitated by loud sounds – you can use this fact to get rid of them easily and without much hard work. Set up a source of noise near the holes, like a loud speaker and turn on the volume. The bees will fly away – but be sure to inform your neighbors first, to avoid complaints!
With this method you will be sealing the bees in, instead of getting them out. Simply cover the holes with caulk or putty and paint it over nicely. The bees cannot burrow their out once they are trapped – no need to painstakingly get every bee out of the holes! For best results, you can use steel wool for filling in the holes.
You can get physical and let out all your anger against the bees by using this method. If you are more of an aggressive kind of person, pick up a badminton racket and get smashing those bees that are ruining on your good wood!
To kill carpenter bees, spray petrol or diesel into the holes. Use a spray can or bottle and make sure you only use it for petrol in future. Also wear protective gloves, respirator and goggles to avoid accidents.
In order to avoid carpenter bees from attacking your house altogether, you might consider installing vinyl sidings in your home. Vinyl being non-wooden cannot be attacked by wood bees. You can also use aluminum siding – even though these options are more expensive than wood, they will save you time, money and worry in the long run!
This is a homemade mixture that you can make to drive away wood bees – all insects are repelled by citrus oil. Instead of paying money to buy a citrus spray, you can make your own easily at home. Take a pot and boil water in it. Cut up any citrus fruit, like lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc. and boil it in the water till it is reduced to one-third its volume. Fill the mixture in a spray bottle and spray it into the holes in the wood to get rid of the pests.
This is a naturally occurring earth that contains fossilized remains of diatoms and widely used as an insecticide. Wear gloves for protection and fill the holes made by the bees with some diatomaceous earth. Then cover it up with some putty. For extra protection paint it over. This earth has microscopic sharp edges which cut through the exoskeleton of the bees and kill them.
12. Natural spray repellent
Make this natural bee repellent and spray it into the holes to get rid of the wood bees. Mix together a few essential oils – 1/8 ounce each of tea-tree oil, jojoba oil, pennyroyal oil, ½ ounce citronella oil and ¼ ounce lavender oil – and pour them into a dark glass bottle. Pour 16 ounces of pure vodka into the bottle and mix it around. Use a spray nozzle on the bottle.
Pyrethrins are natural insecticides – they are organic compounds derived from chrysanthemums. You can spray them in the holes burrowed by the wood bees to drive them out – pyrethrins being neuro-disruptive toxins will kill the bees. The spray will stay effective for a week and then will safely biodegrade.
Soak a few cloves of garlic in cooking oil for a few days. Add cheap white vinegar (the cheaper the more acidic) to it, and spray the mixture in and around the holes. Apply another spray if the number of bees doesn’t reduce in a few days.
Garlic has lethal effect on bees. Pour garlic powder directly into the holes in the wood to kill the carpenter bees.
Citronella repels insects, including bees. Burning citronella candles inside the house will prevent carpenter bee infestations pretty effectively.
Now, that you know the simplest homemade ‘How to kill carpenter bees’ answers, let’s learn some precautions.