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July 08, 2019

Busy Bees

By Lauren Hogarth

When many picture a bee, the first species that comes to mind is often the bumblebee. The same goes for wood-boring insects; many assume them to be termites. What many do not expect is that there is a species of bee that bores into wood. Carpenter bees, like their relative the bumblebee, are large, black and yellow insects whose life only spans up to a year. Female carpenter bees rarely sting, only when provoked, and males completely lack the ability to. They are, however, quite territorial and are typically the gender that most people come into contact. Males will hover closely to people and structures, especially attracted to sudden movements, but do no more than create unnecessary fear. Though not particularly harmful to humans, carpenter bees can be a significant threat to wooden structures, affecting their integrity.

Found throughout the US, bees bore into raw wood and deck timbers, especially if it is weathered or has starter holes. As a result, a large number of bees can cause damage to log and wood-sided structures. In the case of thinner wood, such as siding, this damage can be severe. Contrary to popular belief, these bees do not eat the wood; they chew and live within it. Since they do not actually eat the wood they bore into, nectar from flowering plants is their primary food source. Some say that painting or staining wood will help to deter them, but they are known to damage that on occasion as well. The first signs of carpenter bee damage include small, smooth holes. A more advanced infestation may also include physically seeing bees hovering around the wood.

Carpenter Bee Nests

Unlike other common bees, such as honeybees, that live in colonies, carpenter bees are not social and build individual nests into trees or into the eaves, frames, or sides of buildings. Adult carpenter bees will overwinter in abandoned tunnels where they have stored pollen. The bees that survive the cold months will emerge when the temperatures warm up to feed on nectar, mate and make new nests, called galleries. Reused galleries expand every year, and some have been known to grow up to 10 ft in length.

The female makes large, open rooms to lay her eggs in off of the main gallery, called cells. She will ensure that each cell has enough pollen and regurgitated nectar for her developing young to feed. She will lay one egg in each gallery and seal off the entrance with wood pulp. The eggs take approximately 36 days to develop to an adult where they will then excavate themselves from the cell and into the gallery. Furthermore, the developing larvae, especially in homes, can oftentimes be attractive to woodpeckers that will seek out developing carpenter bees and create more extensive damage to the existing holes.

Eradicating Carpenter Bees

In order to keep carpenter bees out of the home, it is essential always to inspect the perimeter. Seal any cracks and crevices you jay see along the foundation and walls with caulk; repair holes in screens on windows or doors, and keep the doors closed unless in use. Professional treatment is vital if you have an active infestation. Dusting in entrance holes and an exterior pesticide treatment on affected wood is the most effective method for control. Carpenter bees typically require multiple treatments throughout a season. To prevent re-infestation, caulk and seal off holes, refinishing, or replacement of wood is necessary.

If you believe to be experiencing problems associated with carpenter bees, it is crucial to call licensed wildlife professionals. We have been keeping structures free from carpenter ants for over 25 years and are eager to help today!

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