Carpenter bees, along with other native bee species, are essential pollinators. But, they are a downright nuisance if they start creating holes in your wooden structures like siding, eaves, windowsills, fascia boards, beams, and posts. Read on to discover how to deter carpenter bees and keep them from causing structural damage to your home.
Carpenter bees do not eat wood and cause extensive destruction like termites or carpenter ants. However, when they bore holes for their burrows, problems like water retention, decay, and rot occur if left unchecked. Don’t reach for the pesticides right away. It is best to try to get rid of carpenter bees naturally. There are numerous simple ways to deter carpenter bees.
Carpenter bees are not aggressive, and they rarely sting. Male carpenter bees do not even have stingers. Use our tips and tricks for carpenter bee prevention, and learn what to do if you find a carpenter bee infestation on your property.
- How to Identify a Carpenter Bee Infestation
- How to Make a DIY Carpenter Bee Deterrent
- Citrus Oil is a Natural Carpenter Bee Deterrent
- Repel Carpenter Bees with Essential Oils
- Almond Oil is a Carpenter Bee Deterrent
- Use Vinegar to Repel Carpenter Bees
- Provide Native Bees with a Bee Hotel
- Repel Carpenter Bees with a Decoy Wasp Nest
- How to Deter Carpenter Bees with Loud Sounds and Vibrations
- How to Make a Carpenter Bee Trap
- Use Insecticide Spray as a Last Resort
- How to Prevent Carpenter Bees from Returning
How to Identify a Carpenter Bee Infestation
When you see a pile of sawdust at the base of wood surfaces around your home, your first thought might be woodpeckers. However, you may have a smaller pest on your hands.
Attracting carpenter bees is easier than you may have realized, as they make their burrows in dead softwoods. They’re most active in the springtime when they are looking for mates and nesting sites.
Their entrance holes are roughly a half-inch in diameter and characterized by a fan-shaped stain beneath the opening. You may also hear scraping sounds from inside the wood.
While many bees live in large colonies, carpenter bees are mainly solitary. Female carpenter bees are the ones that burrow into exposed wood to create long tunnels in which to lay their eggs.
After mating, the male carpenter bees stay nearby to protect the nest. Their eggs develop in two stages, larvae and pupae, over about seven weeks before emerging from the nest as adults.
Adult carpenter bees often overwinter in their original burrows or find abandoned tunnels. They fill the nest with a stock of pollen to survive the cold weather.
Carpenter bees measure between a half-inch to one inch in length. They typically have black and yellow or black and orange coloring. They are often confused with bumble bees, which are similar in size and shade, and are also a ground-burrowing species.
How to Make a DIY Carpenter Bee Deterrent
There are numerous options for making a natural carpenter bee deterrent and getting rid of boring bees that can destroy your property. Prevention is the best carpenter bee control. Here are a few tips and tricks for making your home a less attractive nesting site for carpenter bees.
Once the bees have relocated, be sure to seal the holes right away and follow the instructions below to treat the wood so that the bees don’t return.
Citrus Oil is a Natural Carpenter Bee Deterrent
Use a safe, natural repellent like citrus oil to deter carpenter bees and encourage them to build their nests elsewhere. Making a citrus oil-based carpenter bee deterrent spray is simple and effective, and it also works quite well as a natural chigger deterrent for the yard.
For one of the natural ways to kill carpenter bees, chop up a variety of citrus peels and place them in a small saucepan. Cover the citrus peels with water and bring to a boil on the stove. Let the mixture simmer for at least ten minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the stove and allow the liquid to cool. Strain the citrus-infused water into a clean spray bottle. Spray the liquid liberally around the carpenter bee holes and repeat the process until all female bees have left.
To kill wasps in the ground, pour the liquid directly into their home. This assault is best attempted at night when the bees are less active.
Repel Carpenter Bees with Essential Oils
Numerous essential oils have insect repellent properties. Citrus oils like citronella, lemon, and orange work and peppermint and tea tree oils.
Combine the essential oil with cool water in a clean spray bottle and swirl the mixture to blend. Spray the carpenter bee holes thoroughly once or twice per day until all of the bees have relocated.
What plants deter yellow jackets and other stinging insects? Try growing your own citronella and peppermint plants. Many bugs dislike the smell.
Almond Oil is a Carpenter Bee Deterrent
Almond oil similarly repels carpenter bees. Mix the oil with water to use as a spray, or apply the oil directly to the entrance holes.
To make this natural bee repellant, mix the almond oil with water in a clean spray bottle. Spray the carpenter bee holes generously with the mixture once or twice per day until all carpenter bees are gone.
Use Vinegar to Repel Carpenter Bees
Vinegar is a helpful carpenter bee deterrent. Use white vinegar with high acidity to make a natural bee repellent vinegar spray.
Mix the white vinegar with garlic powder in a clean spray bottle. Spray the entrance holes liberally with the solution, and repeat as necessary until all of the bees have relocated.
Provide Native Bees with a Bee Hotel
Many retail garden centers and hardware stores sell “bee hotels,” which are nesting boxes for native bees like carpenters. Or, if you’re feeling crafty, make your own.
The boxes feature removable tubes made from bamboo, cardboard, or wood. They provide native burrowing bees with an alternative nesting site and deter them from burrowing into the wooden structures around your home.
Repel Carpenter Bees with a Decoy Wasp Nest
Carpenter bees avoid nesting in the same location as wasps. This technique deters carpenter bees from creating a new nest but will not cause them to leave an existing one.
To replicate the shape and size of a wasp nest, stuff the brown paper bag with your filling of choice. Tie the top with a length of string and hang the decoy in the area you want to protect.
How to Deter Carpenter Bees with Loud Sounds and Vibrations
Another practical strategy to encourage female carpenter bees to relocate is by playing loud music next to the nest. The speaker’s loud sounds and vibrations are disruptive to the bees and cause them to leave after several days.
Bees communicate through vibroacoustics and “hear” low-frequency noise of up to 500Hz. Music with a deep, reverberating bass line is the best carpenter bee deterrent. Place a radio or speaker right next to the nest and crank up the tunes for underground bees nest removal or to get rid of carpenter bees.
How to Make a Carpenter Bee Trap
Like termite traps, if you are dealing with a severe carpenter bee infestation, try using a trap to reduce their numbers. DIY carpenter bee traps are easy to make. Homemade carpenter bee traps and baits are quite effective and only require basic supplies. However, they are also available for purchase at many pest control and garden shops.
Cut your scrap wood into six pieces that measure roughly six inches wide by eight inches long. Assemble four pieces to form a box and use nails or screws to attach the long sides.
Center the next piece of wood on top of the box to make a roof and use nails or screws to attach it—drill half-inch holes into three sides of the box about an inch and a half below the roof.
The holes should be drilled at a 45-degree upward angle so that sunlight doesn’t shine into the box. Drill a half-inch hole into the lid of the clear bottle or jar. Make sure not to damage the threads on the cap if you’re using a plastic bottle.
Create a hole in the middle of the bottom panel of the box that is the same size as your bottle cap or jar lid. Gently tap the cap or lid into the hole in the bottom panel of the box. It should fit snugly inside the opening. If it’s loose, seal it with adhesive.
Attach the bottom panel to the box with nails or screws. Screw the bottle or jar into the threads of the lid. Add a hook or loop of string to the roof of the box, and hang the trap over the nest.
The carpenter bees crawl into the pre-drilled entrance holes, then head for the light shining through the hole in the bottom of the box. Since the box is dark inside, the bees cannot see the hole in the bottle cap or jar lid and become trapped.
Use Insecticide Spray as a Last Resort
Remember that carpenter bees are docile little creatures who perform a vital role in the environment. Whenever possible, try to lure them away from their nesting site before you resort to killing them.
If you feel the need to apply an insecticide spray, there are liquid and aerosol products available. Choose a product with an extension tube to spray the insecticide directly into the entrance hole.
The best time for application is at night while the bees are inactive or early spring before they come out of hibernation.
An alternative to using an insecticide is a petroleum-based aerosol product like WD40 or carburetor cleaner. Petroleum effectively kills insects.
When using chemical products, it’s essential to follow the safety instructions listed on the product packaging and wear protective equipment like gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator mask.
How to Prevent Carpenter Bees from Returning
Early fall is one of the best times to take preventive steps against a future carpenter bee infestation. The nesting tunnels are empty, and adult carpenter bees haven’t yet moved in for the winter.
Here are a few straightforward measures to take to prevent a carpenter bee infestation in the following spring.
Seal Existing Holes and Crevices
Once the carpenter bees have vacated the nest, it’s crucial to seal the hole right away to prevent the insects from returning. Fill the carpenter bee holes with caulk, putty, steel wool, or spray foam insulation.
Repair and Treat Damaged Wood Surfaces
Once you’ve sealed off the entrance hole, repair and treat the damaged wood. Carpenter bees are most likely to create nests in degraded and untreated wood, so this is also a practical way of discouraging them from returning to a previous nesting site.
Sand the wood surfaces smooth and treat the exposed wood with primer and two coats of paint. Varnish and stain treatments also offer some protection against carpenter bees, but paint is more suitable.
It’s far easier to prevent carpenter bees from taking up residence in wooden structures around your home than it is to repair structural damage caused by their burrowing.
Follow our tips and tricks for how to deter carpenter bees and prevent future infestation. If possible, avoid using pesticides and try one of our recipes for natural carpenter bee deterrent.
Once you’ve managed to get rid of the insects, act fast to seal their entrance holes, and treat the damaged wood to discourage them from returning.
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