Has this ever happened to you: you’re out on your back deck enjoying a refreshing glass of iced tea when a fat bee emerges from a hole in your woodwork and buzzes away? Carpenter bees are a common household nuisance. These docile insects are virtually harmless to humans but can cause serious damage to wooden structures.
Unlike termites, which actually consume wood, carpenter bees simply burrow into wood to build their nests. They also use the wood shavings left over from their excavation to build partitions in their nests.
How Do You Tell A Carpenter Bee from a Bumblebee?
It’s easy to recognize carpenter bees. They’re about the same size and shape as bumble bees, but while bumblebees’ bodies are covered in bright yellow hairs, carpenter bees’ bodies are slick, black, and shiny.
When Are They Most Active?
Carpenter bees are most active during the late spring and early summer when they’re searching for mates and nesting sites. Their preferred habitat is in softwoods such as redwood, cedar, cypress, and pine. In addition to trees, favored nesting sites include eaves, facia, window trim, clapboard siding, decks, and patio furniture.
Once they’ve found a favorable site, carpenter bees tunnel into the wood to lay their eggs. Their entry holes are easily identifiable because they are perfectly round and about a half an inch in diameter. Often, fresh sawdust can be seen near their entrances.
Male carpenter bees can be intimidating, sometimes even swarming people that get too close to their nests. Because they don’t have stingers, though, they’re completely harmless. Females do possess stingers but are very reluctant to use them except when in direct danger.
While carpenter bees are capable of causing extensive property damage if left unchecked, there are some simple strategies for repelling them.
The easiest way to deal with them is to prevent them from moving in in the first place. One of the most effective strategies for keeping them at bay is by ensuring that the wood on your property in good repair, as they are more likely to target unpainted or weathered wood. Make a habit of regularly painting all outdoor wood surfaces.
If they do move in, you can sometimes scare them off with loud noise. The insects are sensitive to noise, and simply placing a loud radio next to their nests may be enough to encourage them to move on.
Carpenter bees also dislike citrus oil. You can make your own safe and natural carpenter bee repellant by cutting up a variety of citrus peels and boiling them. Then pour the water into a spray bottle and douse their nest with it. Reapply frequently until you are sure that all of the bees have moved on.
Once you’re sure you’ve repelled the carpenter bees in a particular nest, including larvae, you can seal off their holes with caulk. Then paint or seal the affected area to prevent future infestations.
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.