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How to Prevent Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bee on a purple flower

Carpenter bees like to burrow and nest in wood, which is how they get their name. They create perfectly round holes in the wooden areas of your home, often leaving behind small piles of sawdust. These wood-destroying insects aren’t as bad as termites, but that doesn’t mean they’re welcome in your home. We’ll go over the basics about carpenter bees, plus how to prevent them from becoming a problem.

What Attracts Carpenter Bees?

Like other bees, carpenter bees are attracted to flowers. If you have lots of flowers in your yard, you’ll likely find these bees mingling with bumblebees, butterflies, and other pollinators. They’re also attracted to untreated wood, which can make fences, decks, and sheds, as well as wood siding. Carpenter bees also search for old nests that they can use and expand.

What do Carpenter Bees Eat?

Contrary to popular belief, carpenter bees don’t eat wood—they use their mandibles to carve out tunnels, then push the sawdust out. Instead, Carpenter bees eat nectar like other bees. Carpenter bees feed their larvae “bee bread,” which is a mixture of pollen and nectar or honey.

Are They Dangerous?

Carpenter bees aren't necessarily dangerous to you personally. The biggest threat that carpenter bees pose is to your home. If they have a large enough population, carpenter bees can cause extensive damage as they tunnel through your home, eventually compromising its structural integrity. These bees aren’t aggressive, but some individuals may have an allergic reaction if stung.

How Do You Keep Them Away?

There are a variety of ways to keep carpenter bees away before they actually become a problem. A few of the most effective ways include: 

  1. Paint or stain exposed wood: Carpenter bees prefer untreated wood, so painting or staining it makes it more unappealing to them.
  2. Build with hardwood: Hardwood is denser and more complex than softwood. Using oak, cherry, or ash makes it more difficult for carpenter bees to burrow.
  3. Use vinyl siding: Unlike wood siding, vinyl doesn’t attract carpenter bees and actually protects the softwood it’s covering.
  4. Seal cracks and holes: Carpenter bees seek out existing holes and nests. By sealing them, you increase the odds that bees will search for a home elsewhere.
  5. Install carpenter bee houses: Carpenter bee houses have pre-drilled spaces where bees can live. Installing one can lure bees away from your home.

Natural Ways to Repel Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees don’t like citrus, so natural repellents made from citrus fruits can ward off carpenter bees and prevent them from making their nests in existing holes. You can make a repellent yourself by cutting up lemon, lime, or orange peels and boiling them in water for a few minutes. Let the mixture cool, then pour it into a spray bottle and apply to affected areas.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Once You Have Them

There are multiple ways to get rid of Carpenter bees once you have an infestation. We’ll go over a few of them: 

  1. Use a spray insecticide that is labeled for wood boring insects, which includes carpenter bees.
  2. Apply insecticide dust to existing holes. It’s most effective to do this in the evening when the majority of the bees are back in the nest.
  3. Make noise with wind chimes or loud music. Carpenter bees are sensitive to noise and vibrations, so this can drive them out of your home.
  4. Call the professionals! This is the safest option, as professionals have all the necessary tools and know-how to properly eliminate carpenter bees.

Can Carpenter Bees Sting You?

Yes, Carpenter bees can sting you, but only some of them. Female carpenter bees are the ones who have stingers, and they’re capable of stinging more than once. However, they’re unlikely to do so unless you provoke them by attempting to handle them or poking your fingers into their burrows. Male carpenter bees are the ones you’ll see guarding the nest and while they might act aggressively by flying at you, they can’t sting you.

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