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What Are Carpenter Bees and What Damage Do They Cause?

By Pestech Pest Solutions
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Bees are a hallmark of summer. Although nostalgic for some, these buzzing insects can make others feel uncomfortable. The good news is that most bees aren’t the least interested in people. They have plenty to do throughout the summer, and bothering humans isn’t on their list.

Unfortunately, sometimes regular bee activity can cause active harm — like when carpenter bees riddle your porch or shed with so many holes that the structure is no longer safe. Here’s everything you need to know about carpenter bees and how to handle these industrious insects.

Signs of Carpenter Bee Infestation

How can you tell if you have carpenter bees? There are a few tell-tale signs that will let you know if these insects are buzzing around your home:

  • Wood shavings, also known as “frass”
  • Holes bored into wooden materials
  • Sightings of large yellow and black bees

Carpenter bees are sometimes confused with bumblebees because they’re similar in size and shape. However, bumblebees live in the ground and don’t ever drill holes in wood. If you see a large bee climbing out of a hole in your porch, you have carpenter bees.

How to Identify Carpenter Bees

You can identify carpenter bees by their appearance and behavior. Carpenter bees have similar coloring to bumblebees, but their abdomens are a smooth, shiny black instead of yellow. The way these bees fly is also different — bumblebees typically have smooth, straight flight paths, while carpenter bees zigzag and chase each other.

Although you’ll find both types of bees swarming over flowers and gathering pollen, only carpenter bees will hang around your wooden structures. Personality-wise, bumblebees are extremely relaxed around people. However, carpenter bees often act aggressively, fighting each other and patrolling near their nests.

Carpenter Bee Life Cycle

While some bees like to live in colonies, others make nests on their own. Carpenter bees fall into the latter category and spend most of their lives busily working by themselves. These bees hibernate in old nests over the winter and then emerge in the spring to start gathering pollen and raising larvae.

The males and females are distinctly different. Females chew nests out of wooden materials, digging deep galleries that can house multiple larvae. After the bees mate, the females lay eggs in these galleries. They enclose each egg into a separate chamber with a ball of pollen so that the larva will have food while it grows.

While the females work on raising larvae, male carpenter bees defend the nest. They have more aggressive personalities, although they’re not physically equipped with a stinger. Larvae take between five and seven weeks to develop into full-grown adult bees that exit the nest.

Do Carpenter Bees Sting?

Do Carpenter Bees Sting?

Yes and no. Male carpenter bees can’t physically harm you because they don’t have a stinger. However, they can make your porch a very uncomfortable place with their aggressive guarding behavior.

Female carpenter bees do have a stinger, but they’re less aggressive and will only sting you if provoked. They’re able to sting multiple times, but many people believe their sting is less painful than that of other bees.

Where Do Carpenter Bees Live?

Carpenter bees love to drill into softwoods, although they don’t like rotten wood. They tend to avoid hardwoods since they’re harder to drill into. If wood is untreated, it’s much more attractive to carpenter bees than wood that’s been painted or sealed.

If there are already existing holes, carpenter bees may also reuse them. They tend to drill up into the wood, then turn and create galleries that branch off the original tunnels. During the winter, they’ll crawl back into these tunnels with extra pollen and hibernate through the winter.

Can Carpenter Bees Damage Your Property?

Yes, carpenter bee damage can be significant if you let them chew up your wood. Eventually, their activity can weaken the structure of your porch, shed and other exposed wood, making these areas of your home or business unsafe. If you let carpenter bees drill enough holes in your structure, it could even collapse.

Common carpenter bee targets include:

  • Wood decks
  • Porch railings
  • Picnic tables

Carpenter bees drill straight up and then sideways into wood. This means there could be many more tunnels than the entrances you see in your wooden structure. The longer you take to remove the bees, the more they’ll reproduce. More bees means more tunnels, so the problem can become exponentially worse over just one summer.

While it’s important to stop carpenter bees from harming your property, they are considered pollinators and play an important role in the ecosystem. If you can keep them away without killing them, that’s a better option.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

If you have an infestation of carpenter bees and are worried about the stability of your home, you may want to call for professional help right away. The longer you wait, the more larvae will mature and the worse your problem will get.

If you have a wood deck or porch, the best thing you can do is take preventive measures to avoid an infestation.

Carpenter Bee Prevention

Early in the spring, you can take some steps to help prevent a carpenter bee problem. These DIY carpenter bee treatments may not stop the full invasion, but they can lessen it:

  • Fill cracks and holes in wooden structures
  • Paint or finish any untreated wood
  • Hang up a crushed paper bag that resembles a hornet’s nest

You might come across DIY treatment sprays to get rid of carpenter bees, but they don’t tend to be as effective. Fortunately, you can always reach out to a professional for help.

Professional Methods for Controlling Carpenter Bees

Professional Methods for Controlling Carpenter Bees

It might feel silly to call professional pest services to handle bees. However, carpenter bees can cause significant damage to your property. Their population grows quickly and will continue to damage your property year after year. Trying to deal with carpenter bees on your own may lead to stings and wasted time.

When you call a professional, they’ll treat carpenter bees with their life cycle in mind. For example, the best time of year to treat carpenter bees with insecticides is during the spring, before bees emerge and start drilling new holes. Professionals may also treat the holes with insecticides after the larvae have been laid and before they emerge to make nests and larvae of their own.

Calling a professional service is often the wisest way to deal with a carpenter bee problem. If you’ve tried a few preventative methods and nothing is working, reach out to a professional pest service. When your porch is free of these dive-bombing bees, you’ll be very glad you did.

Contact Pestech Pest Solutions for Carpenter Bee Treatment

At Pestech Pest Solutions, we want you to enjoy the outdoors without being bothered by mosquitoes, bees and other pests. Since starting our business in 1989, we’ve expanded to serve the Hudson Valley and Central New York areas. All our treatments are science-backed and effective.

We offer residential services for homes as well as commercial pest control solutions, including fumigation.

Contact us today to deal with carpenter bees on your property!