Carpenter Bees also called Wood Bees seem to be taking over and causing havoc this year. They start out as a loud slightly annoying house guest. Scaring children by buzzing and dive bombing when anyone gets too close to their nest. They annoy homeowners by leave perfectly drilled little holes in wood. Normally occupying the most serene of spring and summer sitting areas like porches and decks constructed of wood.
After a few weeks we stop really paying attention to them. Carpenter bees aren’t normally known for stinging, because only the females have a stinger. They are however very good at pollinating all of our beautiful flowers. So how bad can they really be?
Carpenter Bee Damage
Carpenter bees aren’t just drilling a perfectly round simple little hole. Those holes are just the entrance to tunnel that can be as long as 4”. That’s a long ways for one little bee. Actually that’s about a third of the length of one of the boards that the roof to my porch rests on. Wood bees aren’t usually seen to pose any actual structural damage because they don’t take over a whole board the way a termite does. However I don’t want want to think about the amount of damage that they are doing or they shere number of holes they have made.
It may not be to bad but after the boring the entrance hole the female Carpenter bee cuts over at a 90 degree angle. She then continues on with the tunnel that can be anywhere from 6 inches to 4 feet. This normally happens in April or May so that the female can lay her eggs.
The next generation of bees is ready by about August. The new bees will spend the rest of the year finding a new nest and hibernating until spring.
As a gardener I love pollinator insects. We go out of our way to not use pesticides in our yard to make it a better place for pollinators. At this point, after several summers of having wood bees nest on our porch and in the wooden siding of the house I have started to look into pesticides for them. Wasp spray is one of the few chemicals we use outdoors and it just is not helping with the Carpenter bees. Not only is it not working but we also don’t necessarily want to kill them just prevent them. That way they can go on pollinating.
While looking we came across several products that are supposed to prevent insects that damage wood, including Carpenter Bees and Termites. Unfortunately all of these products have to be used on untreated wood. Those products don’t do us much good.So what can we do?
Tips for Stopping Wood Bee Damage
- Keep exterior wood surfaces well painted or sealed
- Keep wood and brush piles picked up and away from other wood structures
- Plug the existing holes to nest entrances with wood glue, silicone, or dowel rods
- Treat newly built wooden structures with a product that deters wood damaging insects before painting or sealing.
What Deters Wood Bees
There is a wide range of dusts and aerosol sprays on the market that will kill Carpenter Bees. I don’t want the dust all over my porch, and the aerosols are pretty bad for the environment. I just can’t stop thinking about the bees that get into some of it and don’t die taking it back to the flowers they pollinate. Or all of the plants that won’t get pollinated as well if we keep killing everything that pollinates. So what can we use to keep Wood Bees from destroying our homes and harassing us while we relax?
- Tea Tree Oil or Eucalyptus Oil most insects hate the smell. Can be mixed with water and put in a spray bottle to use on existing tunnels. 20 drops to a cup of water should be about right. Be careful both oils are dangerous to humans and pets.
- Almond Oil contains benzaldehyde a known pest deterrent that should last about 3 months.
- A mixture of Tea Tree, Lavender and Citronella Oils in a spray bottle.
- Cloves of fresh Garlic can be boiled and then added to white vinegar in a spray bottle. This mixture should be reapplied frequently if used.
Yes, most of the these call for essential oils.No, we are not addicted to the essential oil craze. The oils help preserve and treat the wood in small areas where the problem is occurring with the added benefit of certain smells hopefully driving the pest away.It is also the reason why the garlic and water solution needs to used more frequently.
Our Favorite Carpenter Bee Repellent
We like to use 1 Cup of Water, 1 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar in a spray bottle with 1 Tablespoon of Rubbing Alcohol, 6 Drops Lavender Oil and 6 Drops of Tea Tree Oil.
Remember that Tea Tree oil can be harmful to people and pets, and to always label your spray bottles for safety and future reference.
Plants that Deter Carpenter Bees
Plant deterrents don’t seem to work as well on flying pests, as they do on ground dwelling pests. Plants may still work fairly well in small areas such as decks or balconies depending on the size of the area.
Carpenter bees are wonderful pollinators. We want them to keep healthy and pollinating. It would just be really nice if they could make their nests in dead fallen trees and brush instead of in our homes.