You may have already seen a few large, black bees buzzing around outside your home. These hovering bees are likely carpenter bees. Named for their ability to create holes in wood, which they use as homes to raise their young, carpenter bees are relatively harmless pests to humans but they do have the potential to wreak havoc on your home. Here’s what you need to know about carpenter bees and what you should look out for this spring.
Why are they called Carpenter Bees?
Carpenter bees are named for their love of wood. They’re known to create holes in wooden surfaces around homes, which they use to house and raise their young. Unfortunately these surfaces often include your home’s eaves, fascia boards, siding, roofs, decks, and even outdoor furniture.
If you’re looking to deter carpenter bees to prevent damage to your home, you should know they typically prefer unpainted, weather wood, especially softer types like redwood, cedar, cypress, and pine. Painted or weather-treated wood is less likely to attract carpenter bees.
Carpenter bees vs. Bumblebees
Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees but there are many differences between the two. Carpenter bees usually have a shiny, hairless abdomen whereas bumblebees tend to be quite fuzzy with noticeable black and yellow stripes. Carpenter bees also have different nesting habits. Bumblebees usually built their nests in existing cavities, often underground. Carpenter bees make their own cavities, tunneling into wood to lay their eggs. Also, unlike bumblebees, carpenter bees don’t live in colonies.
The Lifecycle of the Carpenter Bee
The adult carpenter bees that survive the cold winter months, emerge in the warmer part of spring to mate with other survivors. Fertilized female carpenter bees are actually the ones responsible for boring holes into wood surfaces, excavating small tunnels to lay their eggs in.
The entrances to these tunnels are usually almost perfectly round and about the diameter of a pinkie finger. You will often find coarse sawdust below the openings of these tunnels, which is a distinct sign carpenter bees are present. Another telltale sign is that carpenter bees often make noise while they’re tunneling through wood, which you can listen for if you suspect their presence.
When Carpenter Bees Become A Nuisance Pest
While not nearly as destructive as termites, carpenter bees are known for causing damage to homes and outdoor property. When female carpenter bees excavate new tunnels in wood for egg laying they can cause cosmetic damage. Because carpenter bees tend to be opportunistic, they will often enlarge and reuse old tunnels, which can unfortunately lead to major structural damage in the long-run, as the same pieces of wood are infested year after year. In addition, in humid climates like Ohio, having holes in the surfaces of untreated wood, can lead to moisture build-up, rot, and decay.
Are Carpenter Bees Dangerous?
Their presence can be unsettling, especially males who have a tendency to hover in front of people and pets that come too close to their nesting sites. However, unlike wasps and more territorial bees that live in colonies, carpenter bees aren’t likely to sting you. In fact, the males that you’re more likely to see hovering around your home during these spring months actually lack the ability to sting. The females, who can sting, are typically more focused on boring into wood to create their nests and aren’t likely to bother you unless they’re directly provoked or handled.
Control & Prevention
The best time to take action against carpenter bees is ASAP, preferably before their tunnels are fully constructed. You can use insecticides specifically for use against carpenter bees, being careful to follow manufacturers instructions and safety warnings, that can be applied directly into tunnel openings. Once treated, allow the holes to stay open for a few days to allow the bees to come into contact with the product to distribute it on themselves and throughout the nest. Once that time has passed, you can then seal the entrance hole to their tunnels with a piece of wooden dowel coated with carpenters glue, putty, or a silicon sealant to prevent bees from using the tunnel in the future and keep the wood surface safe from moisture.
More extensive treatment options may be needed if a large number of carpenter bees have decided to take refuge around your home. If that’s the case, you may need to call in help from a local pest control company to tackle the problem before it becomes unmanageable and costly.
When it comes to prevention, remember that carpenter bees usually don’t tunnel into painted, treated wood. A solution to prevent carpenter bee infestation is to paint any unfinished wood surfaces around your home. Unlike paint, stains are less reliable against attack from tunneling but are better options than leaving the wood untreated and bare.
Another thing to note is to keep garages and other outdoor structures, like sheds and playhouses, closed during the early spring months when carpenter bees are actively looking for nesting sites. This will prevent them from causing damage within these structures.
Need help tackling carpenter bees around your home?
If you’re having problems with carpenter bees or you have any questions about how to best combat them, contact go2-pros pest control. Our team of expertly trained pest control technicians can help your home stay safe against these wood-boring pests!