Belonging to the genus Xylocopa, carpenter bees are large bees having a size of around 3/4 to 1 inch. There are small carpenter bees too that belong to the Ceratinini family. Now, why are they called carpenter bees? Because they build their nests in wood. This can be a dead wood, bamboo or the structural timbers of your house and even your wooden furniture, especially the garden furniture.
How to identify Carpenter Bees?
Looking once at a carpenter bee can make you think as if it is a bumble bee. Here are some pointers that will help you identify the carpenter bees, your first step to get rid of carpenter bees. These points also contain certain facts that will help you distinguish between carpenter bees and bumble bees.
- Carpenter bees are large in size, about an inch long (bumble bees are 1/2 to 1 inch long)
- These bees have black shiny body mostly having yellow colored hair on the thorax. Sometimes the color of hair can be white or orange too. (Bumble bees have black and yellow or black and orange body. Of course, the two bees are quite similar in appearance, why else they would be confused with each other)
- Most of the top part of the abdomen of carpenter bees is hairless and is shiny black in color. (Bumble bees have abdomen fully covered with hair, mostly yellow hair. At last, there’s some difference in both the bees to help you identify carpenter bees!)
- If you see such large bees hovering around the eaves of your house or drilling in wood, be assured, these are carpenter bees. (Bumblebees, on the other hand, can be seen traveling between their underground nest and the flowers from where they obtain food. Yes, there nests are under the ground.)
- You can also identify male and female carpenter bees by looking at their heads. This is important because then you will know if the bee is capable of stinging or not because male carpenter bee doesn’t sting. The female bee is able to sting but doesn’t do this unless provoked extremely. You will, of course, provoke her extremely by trying to demolish its nest. So, to distinguish between male and female carpenter bee, look at its head. Female bees will have black heads, and male bees will have white marks on their heads.
How to find Carpenter Bees’ Nest
Once you have identified the carpenter bees, you now know that there is a nest of these bees in or around your house. The task now is t find the nest of the carpenter bees. But how to do this?
For this, you need to
- Locate the place where male carpenter bees hover around. Female bee bores holes into rough and unfinished wood to make her nest so that she can lay eggs there. These holes are the nest of carpenter bees and these can be shallow or deep- as shallow as five to six inches and as deep as four feet. This happens in Spring season when adult bees mate and start cleaning and enlarging the old tunnels. They may also excavate new ones as brood chambers for their young.
- If you see male carpenter bees (you know how to identify them), hovering around some wooden structure, check the ground there or any other horizontal surface beneath that place.
- If you see something like coarse sawdust, the nest is there only, just above the frass. Frass is the sawdust that falls off from the wood in which the hole has been drilled.
When you search for the nest, you don’t have to worry about the male bees that will intimidate you by flying at you and buzzing around your head. They can’t sting. However, be careful about the female bees, they can sting.
Once you have located the carpenter bee’s nest, you can take required steps to get rid of them. But before knowing how to get rid of carpenter bees and their nests, let’s know why it is essential to remove the nest? After all, it is just a hole of about half a inch diameter!
Why Carpenter Bees’ Nest removal is essential?
A hole made by a bee in a wood is just a slight damage to the wood. However, think about the time and again when carpenter bees work on old tunnels to make brood chambers for their young ones.
The young adult bees hibernate in winters inside the tunnels in the wood. Every year, after the adult bees wake up from their hibernation, they mate in the spring season. Then they start cleaning the tunnel. They make it large. They excavate new tunnels to create brood chambers. Each such chamber has ‘bee bread’ which is a mixture of pollen and regurgitated nectar. This is the food for the larvae. The female bee lays her egg on the food and seals off each of the chamber. These eggs then develop into adult bees and repeat the life cycle.
- Every year, the brood chambers keep on expanding. This also expands the tunnel through branching activities. This ultimately causes considerable damage to the structure.
- The bees also defecate on the wall or other surfaces directly below the opening of the tunnels. This causes stains.
How to get rid of Carpenter Bees?
Once you have found out where the nest of carpenter bees is, it becomes easier to remove it. Just that you need to do just the right things to get rid of these bees.
1. Use Insecticidal Dust
If you have active carpenter bees in or around your home, the best thing would be to use insecticidal dust. This way, you protect your wooden structure from harmful liquid chemicals that may get absorbed into the porous wood and at the same time you ensure that carpenter bees come in contact with this dust and get eliminated.
- Insecticidal dust
- Protective clothing like gloves, goggles, respirator, dust mask etc. and wasp or hornet spray if doing the task during daytime
- Flashlight and red cellophane if working at night
- Preferably, do this during night time so that you may avoid stings of female carpenter bees. If so, cut a piece of red cellophane and stick it to the flashlight to make the light red. Bees are not able to see red light but you will easily see the opening of the nest.
- If working during daytime, wear all the possible protective clothing and accessories. Keep a wasp spray handy so that you can use it on any bees that fly around you to defend their nest. Remember, female bees can sting.
- Using the duster, apply insecticidal dust directly into nest openings of the carpenter bees that you have found out.
- Duster puffs the dust up into the tunnel made by carpenter bees and also coat its sides.
- That’s all for now
- Wash the clothes that you have been wearing immediately and don’t mix with other household laundry
- Take shower to avoid any risk due to insecticidal dust that might have contacted your skin or body.
The next step involves plugging the holes that you have treated with insecticidal dust but that needs to be done later because you want all the bees inside to come in contact with the dust. When they emerge out of the hole and go inside, they will spread the dust inside the tunnel.
2. Plug the Openings of the Nest of Carpenter Bees
This needs to be done, preferably, in the fall, after you have treated the nest openings with insecticidal dust at least thrice – in the spring, in mid-summer and in early fall. This ensures that you eliminate adult bees, new matured bees and all the other bees in hibernation during winters.
- Wood putty or wooden dowels
- Paint or Varnish
- Fill the holes, the openings of the carpenter bees’ nests, using wood putty or wood dowels
- After this, either varnish or paint the entire wood surface.
Precaution- pesticides are poisonous and thus need to be handled carefully. If that’s not the way you intend to get rid of carpenter bees, try the following remedies for carpenter bees elimination.
Home Remedies to get rid of Carpenter Bees
If insecticidal dust is not what you were looking for when thinking of getting rid of these carpenter bees, you might be happy to use the following home remedies to get rid of carpenter bees.
Use your vacuum cleaner
- Take the smallest nozzle of your vacuum cleaner, and get set to clean the carpenter bees.
- Place the vacuum cleaner nozzle over the openings of tunnels made by the bees in the wood.
- Now vacuum up the bees. It’s that easy. However, try to do this in the evening when all the bees have returned to the nest. Better, if you can do it during night.
3. Spray Petrol over the Nest of Carpenter Bees
Before using petrol, know that it is a pesticide even if natural. Also, petrol is highly flammable and wooden surface drenched with petrol is not a very good sign. If you can handle petrol and wood safely, then only think about this remedy otherwise there are many more remedies for carpenter bees.
- Protective clothing like goggles, gloves, respirator etc.
- Petrol (or diesel)
- Spray bottle or a bottle with a small pointed nozzle
- Wear all your protective gear
- Fill only a little amount of petrol in the spray bottle or the one with nozzle
- Spray the petrol in the tunnels of carpenter bees. If using nozzle bottle, place the nozzle inside the hole and pour the petrol into the tunnel
Don’t use this bottle for anything else. If you can discard the bottle, that’s the best option. If not, label it as ‘Petrol Only’. Don’t use it to spray water or other liquids over plants etc.
4. Make Noise near Carpenter Bees Nests
This seems insane! However, it’s not that a useless activity to do. Carpenter bees are extremely sensitive to noise or should it be said like this, they are extremely sensitive to the vibrations made by loud noises.
Sound box or Boom box
- Place the sound box or the boom box as close to the nest of carpenter bees as you can
- Now play it
- The bees will be forced to get out of their nest
You can’t get easier remedy than this to get rid of carpenter bees!
5. Dust the Nest with Boric Acid
Boric acid is a poison and thus it can kill the carpenter bees. However, be careful while handling it, if using. Always wear protective clothing and mask to avoid breathing the air that might have particles of boric acid when sprayed for carpenter bees.
- Boric acid
- Boric acid comes in powder form so use a duster to apply it over the openings of the nests
- Wear protective clothing before doing this
If you don’t want to use boric acid, use non toxic diatomaceous earth for carpenter bees
6. Use Diatomaceous Earth for Carpenter Bees
Diatomaceous Earth is a soft, crumbly, porous sedimentary soil like powder formed from the fossil remains of diatoms, a type of algae. It is a natural pesticide. The sharp edges of microscopic diatoms present in the diatomaceous earth shred the outer shell of bees and other insects and kill them by drying them out. Use the food grade diatomaceous earth and not the one used for pool filtration systems.
- Diatomaceous Earth
- Turkey baster (or a needle less syringe)
- Wood putty
- Wear the gloves
- Fill the turkey baster with diatomaceous earth
- Now place its nozzle type of front part over the hole of the nest of carpenter bees
- Inject the diatomaceous earth into the tunnel
- Plug the holes with wood putty
- Throw away the gloves and turkey baster. Don’t use them for any other purpose
7. Spray Aerosol Carburetor Cleaner
Yes, you might wonder about this remedy but aerosol carburetor cleaners can effectively exterminate carpenter bees.
- Aerosol carburetor cleaner
- Protective clothing
- Wear the protective clothing- gloves, mask, goggles etc.
- Now take the can of the aerosol carburetor cleaner and pull out its extension tube
- Place this tube inside the opening of the tunnel of carpenter bees’ nest
- Spray the cleaner inside the nest
- This spray will kill almost all the bees inside the tunnel
- It will also make the tunnel uninhabitable so that the new bees who look for old nests do not find it attractive enough to live in.
8. Make Citrus Spray to get rid of Carpenter bees
Probably the smell of citrus fruits etc. are not liked by the carpenter bees or it is possible that these citrus liquids contain some elements that effectively eliminate carpenter bees. Whatever the reason might be, citrus sprays are one of the very effective remedies for carpenter bees. You can either buy a citrus spray specifically made for repelling carpenter bees or make one at home.
- Citrus fruit/ fruits such as orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit etc.
- Spray bottle, preferably with a narrow nozzle
- Take one or many citrus fruits and cut them in pieces. In fact, you can eat the fruit and save their peels and rinds for the purpose.
- Take the pot and fill it with water
- Heat the water and add the rinds of the fruits
- Let the water boil for the time till it remains half of its original quantity
- Now put off the flame and wait for sometime so that the citrus water cools down a little
- When the water is manageably hot, fill it in the spray bottle
- Now spray this homemade citrus repellent spray inside the nests of the carpenter bees and get rid of them
9. Use Almond Oil to repel Carpenter Bees
Almond oil has passed all the test when it comes to naturally deter bees, including carpenter bees. Almond oil contains benzaldehyde which is known to repel bees. If you read the labels of certain commercially available bee repellents, you will find benzaldehyde as one of its active ingredients
- Almond oil
- Tea tree oil (optional)
- Orange oil or other citrus oil (optional)
- Spray bottle
- Take 1-2 tsp of almond oil and equal quantity of any citrus oil, if using. You may also add few drops of tea tree oil to make the spray more effective
- Pour them in the spray bottle
- Fill the bottle with water
- Shake it well to mix water and oils properly
- Now spray this solution inside the nests of the carpenter bees
How to prevent Carpenter Bees from coming back and making nests in wood
Here are some tips for preventing carpenter bees. These are practical and really helpful tips.
- The best policy is to first exterminate the bees using home remedies or with professional help and then plugging the holes so that these nests can’t be used in future by any carpenter bee.
- Use wood putty or wooden dowels to plug the holes made by these bees.
- Carpenter bees can easily carve and make holes in wood but cannot dig through steel wool. Plug the holes of bees with steel wool once they are exterminated.
- Stain or paint outdoor wooden surfaces because these surfaces don’t attract carpenter bees. Untreated wood is mostly preferred by these bees to make their nests.
- After sealing the holes, spray some citrus solution to further repel the bees
- It is not enough to kill the adult bees only, you need to kill the larvae lying inside the tunnels. Use insecticidal dust for this. To know how to use and when to use this dust in order to kill all the bees and their larvae, read the earlier section of this article where insecticidal dust remedy for carpenter bees has been described.
Taking all these measures will definitely ensure that you get rid of carpenter bees completely.