Estimated read time: 2 min
Bees are the most important pollinators in our ecosystem but have developed a reputation for being scary. In general, bees are more interested in doing their job than interacting with humans, and in fact, some bees don’t even have stingers.
The trouble with carpenter bees is that they are true “carpenters,” tunneling into the wood of decks, porches, sheds, handrails, fence posts, dead trees, tree limbs, woodpiles, and anything else made of wood. Once a carpenter bee tunnels a hole in the side of your home, your home is susceptible to more than just bees. For example, woodpeckers love to feed on the developing bee larvae and will tear into the carpenter bee’s nest, further damaging the wood.
Untreated holes and structural damage invite pests, mold, and staining on the wood. Carpenter bees are a serious property threat and cause structural damage over time if left untreated, especially if they repeatedly boreholes for nesting throughout the property.
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Carpenter Bee Identification
Carpenter bees are often confused with bumblebees because they are similar in color and size, as they can grow in length from ½ an inch to 1½ inch. Unlike bumblebees, their belly is black and shiny. Male Carpenter Bees have a white or yellow blaze, while females have a dark face.
Signs of a carpenter bee infestation are:
- Holes about ½ of an inch in diameter in wood that is unfinished or bare
- Fan-like markings or stains on hole exterior
- Sawdust on the ground underneath the bored holes
- Buzzing, burrowing, or scratching sounds coming from inside the walls (the sound may be coming from rodents so, please call for an inspection)
When Are Carpenter Bees Active?
Carpenter Bees start to appear in Maryland and Northern Virginia in the spring, particularly when the temps reach 70 degrees, and are very active through summer. However, they can remain active through October in our area. You are more likely to see them during the morning and afternoon hours when they can get some sun.
Do Carpenter Bees Sting?
Yes and no. Male carpenter bees do not have a stinger. Female carpenter bees have a stinger but will only sting if agitated. Since Carpenter Bees’ stingers are not barbed, they can sting more than once.
Are Carpenter Bees Aggressive?
Carpenter bees, a common pest found in Maryland and Northern Virginia, are not generally aggressive. The male carpenter bee can be aggressive when protecting its nests. It is common for them to swoop down if you are getting too close to their nests. Though harmless, the dive-bomb-type of attack is very intimidating due to the large size of the bee and the loud buzz.
Where Do Carpenter Bees Live?
Carpenter bees are often found around homes, fence posts, children’s playground sets, decks, sheds, and other structures made of softwood. These pests tunnel holes using their strong jaws to vibrate themselves through the wood to lay their eggs. This weakens the structure where they’ve tunneled over time. As they make these tunnels, they cause the wood to weaken. Depending on the structure, this weakness can spread to other boards or frames, causing the entire structure to warp. Carpenter bees are attracted to already started holes, so be sure to fill cracks, nail and screw holes, and splits in the wood.
What Do Carpenter Bees eat?
Although it appears that carpenter bees are eating the wood, they only use the wood to lay eggs and reproduce. They feed on nectar, make a pollen concoction, and regurgitate nectar to feed their larvae. After gathering this pollen for their young, they cross-pollinate other plants, making them key pollinators.
How to Prevent Carpenter Bees
- Paint, varnish, or pressure treat your wooden structures to deter them from nesting. Carpenter bees favor untreated, bare wood.
- Secure trash bins and avoid leaving sugary drinks or foods in your yard.
- Seal openings or holes on your property using caulk or other appropriate fillings.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees, like other pollinators, are very beneficial to the environment, so only treat them if you need to. If you are looking to treat your property for the infestation of pests, do it the right way. DIY methods can cause female bees (the ones that do the damage) to become trapped. If trapped, they will bore a new tunnel to escape. And new tunnels mean more damage.
We take careful consideration when treating carpenter bees to disturb these valuable pollinators as little as possible while protecting your family and property.
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