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Carpenter Bees

by The Bug Doctor

carpenterbee drilling pestcemetery Carpenter BeesIt’s that time of year where bees begin to buzz and phones begin to ring. Carpenter bees are waking up and looking to do what they’ve been doing for thousands of years.

The Carpenter bee is a solitary bee that is basically harmless to you and I. Try telling that to the upset homeowner who is being dive bombed by 15 or 20 of them around her back deck. Although they are not part of a colony they are all attracted to the same exposed wood so it’s not uncommon to find several dozen of them competing for their stake in eave or section of your wood siding. The heavy bee also produces a menacing buzz when she flies which usually sends the Mrs. into a panic.

The male Carpenter bee has no stinger but the female does, she’s not known to bite or sting unless caught in clothing, your hair or your hand trying to swat them. This big bee is simply drilling out a hole where she can lay her eggs and deposit food for the next generation.

The hole drilled is ‘perfect’ by any carpenters standard. Sometimes called the drilling bee she prefers drilling vertically from under the wood but will go right into the side as well. The hole almost always goes with the grain and may extend about 11 inches. I’ve seen some boards so riddled with Carpenter bee caverns that they literally fall apart with the touch.

carpenter bee bumble bee pestcemetery Carpenter BeesThe Carpenter bee resembles the Bumble bee which is aggressive and will sting with less provocation. Both bees have yellow and black markings but the carpenter bees abdomen is shiny black and appears hairless. The Bumble bee is noticeably hairy all over.

The Carpenter bee over winters in abandoned holes only to come out in the spring to complete the life cycle. Using balls of pollen to feed the larva they are considered beneficial. Well if you don’t count the 11 inch hole in your deck awning.

carpenter bee damage pestcemetery 300x225 Carpenter BeesAlthough painted or sealed woods are less desirable they can chew right through it and since they don’t eat the wood, Cedar which is naturally a pest deterrent has no effect. To control the bees you can treat the exposed timber with borate such as Timbor. The bee still will begin to drill but die soon after. Most times control methods come after the bee is through the surface and into the heart of the board where your borate won’t reach. At this time it will be necessary to use an aerosol or dust and treat the cavity. This can be done with an injector tip. Be careful however because she may be inside working and come out hopping mad if you don’t get in a good shot.

For the bees undoubtedly buzzing around you at this time you should do nothing. I say this because they are very unlikely to sting unless aggravated and being that they are very skilled fliers you won’t get in a clean whack and they will begin to defend their ‘stake.’ Just keep your mind on the hole you’re treating and move away when done. Later you should come back and seal the hole with putty or wooden plug.

For next year’s invasion and they will come, treat the wood with the borates and you shouldn’tcarpenter bee in hole pestcemetery 300x182 Carpenter Bees have to endure this nerve racking process.

If for any reason you feel this is too much, just call in a pro, they know what to do and can at least provide some relief and then come back later to set you up for next year’s drilling party.

Check Out This Awesome Homemade Trap That Helps Eliminate This Bee


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  • Barbara

    what to you use to kill the wood bee?

  • Barbara

    what to you use to kill the wood bee?

  • The Bug Doctor

    Hi Barbara,

    I tend to use Borid Turbo more than anything else. It’s a dust formulated in an aerosol. It can be used with a straw tip so I can insert it deep in the hole and give a quick shot. The spray sticks and covers the entire tunnel and the bee can’t help but get it on its body. You may be able to get this at a do it yourself pest control supply store either in your town or perhaps on line. If I don’t happen to have that I use dust in a puff duster which gives me basically the same effect. BEE careful Barbara, I want you around to read some more on my site ;)

    The Bug Doctor

  • The Bug Doctor

    Hi Barbara,

    I tend to use Borid Turbo more than anything else. It’s a dust formulated in an aerosol. It can be used with a straw tip so I can insert it deep in the hole and give a quick shot. The spray sticks and covers the entire tunnel and the bee can’t help but get it on its body. You may be able to get this at a do it yourself pest control supply store either in your town or perhaps on line. If I don’t happen to have that I use dust in a puff duster which gives me basically the same effect. BEE careful Barbara, I want you around to read some more on my site ;)

    The Bug Doctor

  • Pingback: Carpenter bee treatment

  • http://www.localtraders.com/tamworth-B-tradesmen/ http://www.localtraders.com

    Those crazy bee’s!

  • http://www.newjerseypest.com Eliminex of N.J.

    This is a great article. I would like to steal this for my Spring Promo. I do a lot of C Bee jobs from March – Sept.

  • http://pestcemetery.com The Bug Doctor

    Hey there Eliminex,

    I’d be honored to let you use the article and I hope it brings you a TON of new business. If someone asks about it just tell em you have a friend down in Florida :)

    Send me a link or a copy of what you’re doing and I’ll post it here for you as well.

  • Jenny

    I saw a giant shiny black bee buzzing around my patio today in Phoenix, AZ. I Googled “shiny black bumblebee” and found your page. Is there anything else it might be, or do they actually live in this part of the world? It was enormous – easily as big as, if not bigger than, any bumblebee I’ve ever seen. It didn’t seem interested in the many oleander flowers on my tree.

  • http://pestcemetery.com The Bug Doctor

    Hey Jenny-

    Sounds like you might have seen a carpenter bee– That’s the largest bee you have in the southwest. They appear metallic and shiny blue to black so it seems to fit. No worries per se – If it starts to burrow in a wood beam or part of your home just try the steps in the article or give a professional a call- other than that it is just gathering pollen and nectar for its brood to feed on when they hatch.

    Thanks for reading

  • John A. Patriot

    I have had an ongoing battle with carpenter bees, tried all sorts of stuff but nothing seems to deter them; at least not for long… I of course live in NY State, where the powers that be [no pun intended...] don’t allow this product for some random reason which is quite likely why I’ve not come across this solution. I even contacted the local cooperative extension which basically told me nothing will kill them, that I needed to repair the damage and hope they didn’t return. I have read the MSDS on it and don’t really see the reason for its ban? Is there anything that can be used as a replacement that can be sold or shipped to NYS??? Thx

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerry.schappert Jerry Schappert

    Check out the companion article “How to make a carpenter bee trap”. That should help.

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