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What are Carpenter Bees?

Are you familiar with Carpenter Bees?

carpenter beeThey’re everywhere – one of the most common species of bee on the planet – and they’re as persistent as they are invasive. There are over 500 species of carpenter bees worldwide and, unfortunately, they’re a common household pests. While these bees aren’t necessarily aggressive they can cause problems for your home, your heath, and your overall peace of mind.

Carpenter bees got their name from their nasty habit of boring holes in wood to make a home. Their nests can be found commonly in tree trunks but if they make their way into your home they may try to use your framing, your siding, or even your decking to set up shop. Aside from their termite-like wood treatment, here are a few things you should know about carpenter bees:

  • They’re one of the largest bees, averaging between 3/4″ and 1″ long
  • They hibernate throughout the winter and come out in force in Spring, generally in April
  • They don’t live in colonies like other bees as individual females set up nests alone
  • The female bees burrow in order to build a nest, lay eggs, then die; baby carpenter bees don’t leave the nest until late summer

 

Where do carpenter bees live?

These bees prefer mild weather and in the U.S., the most common species is the Xylocopa virginica which can be found from Texas to Kansas and just about everywhere else towards the East Coast. In general, anywhere that stays above freezing throughout the spring months should expect to have carpenters.

deckFemale carpenter bees are the only ones that actually do any “nesting” and, in fact, they prefer to use old nests (whether they’re their own or another bee’s) because it’s less labor intensive than building a new one. Females have been known to build nests, which typically measure about 1/2″ square, in all kinds of non-painted wood surfaces including: porches and decks, attics, siding, new construction, and even lawn furniture. Males only live long enough to impregnate the females and do not play any significant role in the nesting process.

Nesting is a complicated process that involves boring several egg-sized holes in the wood itself. After a female lays an egg in the hole she then brings back pollen and other food and seals the hole with pulpwood so the egg can hatch. In about 2-3 months, baby carpenter bees may begin hatching from several or even dozens of holes where they were born.

 

What can be done about carpenter bees?

It’s important to note that male carpenter bees cannot sting at all, and females will only become aggressive when they’re feeling particularly threatened. The threat this species poses to humans is structural: over time the holes bored by carpenter bees can weaken wooden structures around your property.

Offense is Better Than Defense:

The easiest way to treat against carpenter bees is to prevent them from nesting in the first place. Take care to check for holes as they begin and stain or paint all exposed outdoor wood. The bees only nest in unfinished wood.

Insecticidal Dust:

If you’ve already noticed carpenter bees coming and going you may want to apply over the counter insecticidal dust to their nesting areas. The bees must come in direct contact with the dust for it to be effective. If you apply the dust only after the spring adult emerge you’ll need to apply it again in the fall as the new generation begins to mature.

Call an Exterminator:

The easiest way to take care of a mild to moderate carpenter bee infestation is to bring in a trained exterminator. They’ve go access to fast-acting treatments and powders that will prevent you from having to wonder whether you’ve treated the issue effectively.

 

Carpenter bees are nothing to be afraid of by they should be handled quickly and effectively to prevent long-term issues. If you’ve got questions about whether or not your bees are a carpenter species you should stay a safe distance away and call in a professional immediately.