Best Ways to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

I sit outside a lot when I’m writing, or thinking about a new design, or pondering life’s imponderables, and more often than not I cross paths with bumble bees. Our porch is surrounded by wild roses. Now, bumble bees have always interested me because nobody really knows much about them—no one I know, anyway. Turns out, they may not have been bumble bees at all. If you see a bumble bee that has a predominantly black abdomen, it may in fact be a carpenter bee. Carpenter bees are very similar to bumble bees, in appearance, and much larger than your typical honey bee. The most noticeable difference is that bumble bees have black abdomens covered with yellow hairs, and carpenter bees do not. Also, you may want to get rid of carpenter bees, but not bumble bees.

So, you have to wonder how long you’ve been noticing carpenter bees instead of actual Bumble Bees. A carpenter bee infestation is usually indicated by mounds of saw dust on the ground below an awning, or yellowish-brown feces that tend to accumulate on the walls near a nest, or maybe even constant bombardment by a noisy lot of bees that don’t bother to sting you. Sometimes a serious Carpenter bee infestation is noticed because the wood they’ve infested is pocked with holes from their burrowing and their predator’s attempts to eat them. Either way, below are some practical advice about how to get rid of carpenter bees.

Identifying Carpenter Bees

carpenter bee going into a hole
carpenter bee in flight
carpenter bee hole
sideview of a carpenter bee

The damage done by carpenter bees that have recently taken up residence in a wooden structure is usually quite superficial. However, given enough time and enough seasons spent in the nest, the Carpenter Bee can chew a simple, but prolific tunnel & gallery network through a house’s timbers. Structural damage is no joke. Therefore, it is important to exterminate carpenter bees that have infested your home ASAP.

Best Methods of Carpenter Bee Control

caulking around a windowIf you want to get rid of carpenter bees without using insecticide you may want to try plugging the entrances with caulk or putty. Now you’re thinking, “but won’t they try to burrow their way out?” The answer is no. For whatever reason, carpenter bees will not try to get out of the nest if they’re trapped inside. So, a lot of people simply caulk or putty the entrances to the carpenter bee galleries and then paint over them. It’ll save you money and time.

gloved hand vacuuming beesAnother way to get rid of carpenter bees without using insecticide is to agitate and vacuum them out. This can only be accomplished if the nest is relatively new, and only in the early evening when the bees have returned to the nest and are relatively slow. A new colony will sometimes consist of only 20 or so bees, with one queen. If you notice that the colony is relatively small, you may want to consider waiting outside of the nest with a vacuum cleaner while poking the nest with a stick.

can of bee sprayAny bee killer such as those offered by Raid can be used to get rid of carpenter bees. This is obviously the traditional method of carpenter bee control, and like any other bee infestation you should take steps to ensure that you are properly dressed and make certain that it’s late enough in the evening to get all of the bees. Once you are sure all or most of the bees are in the nest, simply pull out your bee killer, spray a good bit into the nest, and wait to see if any bees come out. Go ahead and do this twice, just to make sure. You can pick up Raid at Amazon.

tub of wood fillerOnce you have killed the bees, make sure you keep them away by replacing the wood or covering the damage with putty.If the bees haven’t done too much damage and you’re not going to spend any money on timber replacement, cover the entrances to the galleries with putty so other bees don’t decide to take up residence there. You can order Wood Filler from Amazon. Otherwise, if you have the money, it might be a good idea to replace any timber the carpenter bees have damaged—and take the next piece of advice seriously.

vinyl siding on a houseTo make sure carpenter bees don’t invade the outside of your home again, either install vinyl siding or have your home painted regularly. Vinyl siding (or any other non-wood siding) really is the only way you’re going to ensure that carpenter bees don’t damage your home. Of course, there are the purists among us who will not stand for such nonsense. To those purists I say: go ahead and use wood to side your house, but you better be darn well certain you keep the paint is kept up—wood stain won’t stop carpenter bees.

Carpenter Bee Extermination

Carpenter bees are rarely a serious problem, and they rarely damage a structure to the point where a massive renovation is required. They’re not termites, that’s for sure. But—and here’s the big “but”—it does happen, and if it does happen you really have no choice but to call a professional exterminator with experience in controlling and exterminating carpenter bees. Again, this should only be done if carpenter bee damage is extensive.

Otherwise, there should be no need to call an exterminator to rid your home of carpenter bees. A can of Raid should be all you need to take care of the problem, and more often than not it doesn’t even require that.

Best Natural Carpenter Bee Control Methods

There doesn’t appear to be any “natural” or “organic” way to control carpenter bees. However, there are a couple of things you can do to protect your home from carpenter bee damage.

Building a home with hardwoods rather than softwoods is a good way to naturally keep carpenter bees away from your home. Carpenter bees prefer softwoods like white pine, cedar, California redwoods, and Douglas firs. Simply put: pine bad, oak & maple good.

Using treated lumber to build your home or extensions to your home is a good idea. Generally speaking, carpenter bees will steer clear of any lumber that has been treated. They prefer untreated, softwoods.

Paint your home and keep the paint in good condition if you want to prevent a carpenter bee infestation. Just like treated lumber, carpenter bees will avoid any kind of wood that’s covered with paint. Varnish and stain doesn not ensure that carpenter bees will stay away from your timbers. Polyurethane paints are your best defense against carpenter bees.