Carpenter bees and their damage

Carpenter bees and carpenter bee damage is difficult to prevent.  Every spring between April and June the phone at the office begins to ring off the hook with homeowners who have carpenter bees and are afraid of carpenter bee damage.  It’s worth noting that carpenter bee damage is never structural in nature.  The damage that carpenter bees do is on aesthetic in nature.Carpenter

The signs and symptoms of carpenter bees differ, but most often we hear one of the following statements from callers:

  1. I see bumble bees hovering at my roof line
  2. I see piles of sawdust on my deck or ground around my house
  3. We’re sitting on the deck and being “dive bombed” by bumble bees

    Carpenter and wood pecker damage
    Carpenter bee and wood pecker damage

It’s important to know a few things about carpenter bees.  The first is identification.  The main difference between a bumble bee and a carpenter bee is that bumble bees have lots of little hairs on their hind quarters and are much smaller than carpenter bees.  Carpenter bees on the other hand are robust and their hind quarters are shinny and black.  Last, carpenter bees are not social insects like bumble bees; they don’t build “nests” for a group of individuals like bumble bees, wasps and some hornets.

Next, the damage that a carpenter bee causes is very unique to them.  The female carpenter bee drills a perfectly round hole about the size of a dime and then enters the wood to excavate a new hole or clean out an existing hole.  When a homeowner complains of seeing sawdust falling this activity is the culprit.  Once the female bee finishes the gallery she’ll plant about 7 eggs, provision the area with a slurry of pollen and nectar so the larva have something to eat and then close the “cell” with a slurry of wood pulp.  She then moves onto the next egg and does the same thing all over.

The last issue with carpenter bees is the “dive bombing” of people who get near the area where the female is working .  This is most often the males, but it should be noted that being stung by a carpenter bee in the traditional sense is rare.  In fact, only the female can sting and in reality she’s to busy to be bothered with you.  Over the years I’ve heard some very creative ways of  combating carpenter bees, but the most common is with a badminton racket.  Many a carpenter bees have met their demise at the hands of  homeowners armed with a racket and good aim.

The most obvious sign besides live insects and visible carpenter bee damage that’s noticeable year round is the telltale stain that is left on the siding.  If you have carpenter bees and the female has completed her life cycle you’ll likely see a yellowish/brown stain near the area of the last provisioned egg.  The reason is that the female spews a slurry of pollen and nectar to seal the hole.

Now that you know what to look for here’s how most professionals treat carpenter bees.  The process will be particular to each company, but it will always include one or two of the following:

  1. Treat the individual holes with and insecticidal dust
  2. Treat the holes with a liquid insecticide
  3. Treat the areas around the holes with a liquid insecticide
  4. Plugging the holes (not all companies including ours offer this service as it is extremely difficult do due to the locations carpenter bees usually inhabit)

If you have a carpenter bee problem or see carpenter bee damage please call 1-888-879-6481.  Envirocare Pest Control, LLC can help.