Carpenter bees are actually a very important part of the ecosystem, despite being an absolute nuisance when they invade your property. If you are a gardener you will love having them around, but there are some concerns about the structural damage that Carpenter bees do to your actual house. When Carpenter bees do invade your property, control methods do become necessary.
However, there are good and bad ways to go about it. Here we will explore some of the best pest control methods for Carpenter bees. Try to avoid killing the bees at all costs though. That should never really be an option.
Do Male or Female Wood Bees Sting?
Yes, Carpenter bees do sting. The female Carpenter bee does have a stinger and will cause a painful sting when she is agitated. A sting from a female Carpenter bee is usually brought on by you trying to pick her up or disturbing the nest opening while she is inside it.
However, the male Carpenter bee does not have a stinger at all, which is why it does not ever sting. The male is the one you are most likely to encounter in your household or around your home.
The male Carpenter bee will act with considerable aggression and often get in your face. While the male tends to act rather macho around humans, it is never going to hurt you because it cannot sting you.
What Is The Difference Between A Male And Female Carpenter Bee?
The male Carpenter bee has a pale marking right in the center of the forehead, and the female Carpenter bee has a solid black head. It is not always easy to spot such a subtle difference, which means that you will be exposed to at least some risk when Carpenter bees are on your property.
It will always be prudent of you to err on the side of caution when dealing with Carpenter bees, regardless of the circumstances. If you plan on treating a Carpenter bee nest, it would be in your best interests to do it at night.
How To Handle A Carpenter Bee Sting?
Treat at Home
Before you can treat a Carpenter bee sting, you need to check the area that has been stung to see if the stinger is still stuck in your skin. If the stinger is still stuck in your skin, it can inject venom into your system, so you should remove it as soon as possible.
At this point, you can grab your first aid kit, clean the wound with some soap and water, then apply some antibiotics. The one thing you should not do is cover the wound up. It will heal itself. The worst you are going to have to deal with is some discomfort.
Seek Medical Attention
If you need a medical professional for a Carpenter bee sting, it probably means that you have had an allergic reaction, which means that you need to have it treated immediately. Among other things, doctors will give you something to help with any rash or itching that comes from the sting.
If you encounter any breathing issues, you will likely be treated with antihistamines or even steroids in serious cases. Some bee stings might even require an adrenaline injection. It all rests on how serious the allergic reaction to the bee sting was.
How To Prevent Carpenter Bee Stings
You can help avoid a Carpenter bee sting by simply not being around them at all. Female Carpenter bees are unlikely to sting you if they are not agitated. The more you encroach on “their” territory, the more likely you are to be stung.
If you have to be in the same environment as a female Carpenter bee, you can also avoid potential stings by wearing protective equipment like a veil or head covering, and some gloves.
There is protective equipment available that will help you cover as much of your skin as possible. If you plan on treating a Carpenter bee nest, it would be best to do that at night, when the bees aren’t really buzzing.
Where Do Carpenter Bees Live/Nest?
Carpenter bees are notorious for nesting inside unpainted and untreated wood surfaces.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Bees
1. Identify the Type of Bee
Before you get rid of the bees on your property, you need to identify the bees you are dealing with. It is a critical part of the process. It is quite easy to mistake a Carpenter bee for a Bumble bee.
Bumble bees are usually about three-quarters of an inch in length and are yellow and black. Critically, Bumble bees also have hairy abdomens and burrow in the ground when nesting. The latter is a defining feature (or activity) of a Bumble bee.
A Carpenter bee tends to grow a little longer than a Bumble bee and gets up to about one inch in length. Although it is not unusual to encounter a Carpenter bee that appears the same length as a Bumble bee. That is partly why identification can get a little tricky at home.
The Carpenter bee is also yellow and black, the abdomen is hairless (shiny) and it prefers to nest by burrowing in softwood, like pine or cedar.
2. Inspection of the Nest
The goal of the inspection is to clearly establish that there is actually a carpenter bee infestation, and where that problem might be coming from. When you look at the wooden structures around your home, you will easily be able to determine that Carpenter bees have been at work with them. A random pile of sawdust on the ground is usually a compelling sign.
It is usually the female Carpenter bee that will create chambers inside whatever wood that the Carpenter bees might be drilling into, so she can lay her eggs in them. The female Carpenter bee will also lay a ball of pollen in each one of those chambers, which will be a food source for the larvae when the eggs hatch inside the chamber.
Upon further inspection of the wooden chambers created by your Carpenter bees, you will be able to differentiate between the older tunnels in the wood and the newer tunnels in the wood and the circular holes.
The edges of the newer holes are usually crisp and sharp and the wood won’t be as discolored as the older tunnel chambers. The newer chambers are the ones that will be of most interest to you when issuing treatment. However, there can be no harm in treating some of the older holes too, as the Carpenter bees have been known to burrow in those too.
3. Protect Yourself from Carpenter Bees
Before you start with treatment and control of your Carpenter bee chambers, it would be prudent of you to put on some personal protective equipment. That would include gloves, a mask, and some goggles.
4. Treatment and Control
There are many pesticides available on the market, most of which will effectively deal with your problem. Once you have a foam product you think you can trust, you should then spray it into the Carpenter bee tunnels that you discovered on your property.
When you put the foam product inside the Carpenter bee chambers, it will expand and fill the chambers completely.
5. Seal The Chambers
Once you have filled the tunnels with foam, you should then find some wood putty to seal those holes. The goal here is to try and prevent reinfestation of those holes.
6. Prevention of New Nests
Once you have completed the treatment and sealing of the Carpenter bee chambers, you can move on to securing a long-term solution to your Carpenter bee problem. There are many suitable pesticides that can be purchased at online vendors or you can DIY with boric acid and water, which you can then spray over the holes that are foamed out and sealed.
You only want to spray the wood to the point of wet, which will provide you with a residual that will last several weeks and months. An important consideration when treating Carpenter bees is that the adults nest in the winter and then emerge in the early springtime.
The best time to treat Carpenter bees is at the end of the winter months and at the start of spring. Two or three treatments during the spring should be more than sufficient, while also doing some treatment in the early stages of the summer.
Alternatives For Pesticides and Foam
Instead of foam or pesticides, you can fill the chambers with either tin foil or steel wool, which acts as an outstanding deterrent.
The best preventative maintenance is to keep your house well painted. Carpenter bees are usually attracted to holes that have been dug before or any other little cracks and gaps, which help them build their tunnel. However, they do not do particularly well with painted surfaces.
While painting and wood maintenance is something that can be done for yourself, you can hire a professional to ensure that the job has been well done. You can also get a professional to help make sure that the wood on your property is properly treated.
Likewise, the application of various pesticides is something that could be done by yourself, but it would be prudent of you to seek professional help, as chemical products do expose you to some undesirable risks.
Carpenter bee infestations are common all over the United States but feature prominently in the Southern parts of the country, and along most of the Eastern Seaboard. While Carpenter bees don’t necessarily infest your home, they are very generational, which means that one or two bees in one year can evolve into dozens of bees over a period of five years, if you choose to not do anything about their presence.
While the initial damage that a Carpenter bee nest does to your home can seem negligible, if they keep returning to that same spot, you could encounter some serious problems, which is why it is a good idea to treat the chambers that they have already created.