How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

By: Andrea Pisani Babich How to

If you have a wooden deck, wood siding on your home, or even a wooden picnic table in your backyard, chances are you’ve encountered a carpenter bee. Though a carpenter bee can be quite loud, it appears more threatening than it actually is. Here’s everything you need to know about carpenter bees, from how to identify them to steps you can take to get rid of them.

What do carpenter bees look like?

Carpenter bees have distinct, shiny black abdomens up to one inch long. Males are distinguished from females by a light spot on the front of their face. Additionally, female carpenter bees will have a visible stinger while male carpenter bees will not. Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees, which are predominantly black and yellow with fuzzy hair and large bodies.

Carpenter Bee Carpenter bees have shiny, black abdomens with a slight purple tint

Identifying a carpenter bee infestation

Carpenter bees are most prevalent in the spring and summer. They prefer bare, unpainted, or weathered wood used in window trim, eaves, wooden decks, and outdoor furniture. Once carpenter bees find suitable wood, they will burrow into it to make their nests. They’re excellent drillers—their tunnels are between six and 10 inches long while their tunnel networks have been observed to be as long as 10 feet.

Though most infestations will begin in the spring, carpenter bees can wreak havoc on wooden structures in and around your home throughout the year. A female carpenter bee will drill a quarter-sized hole into a wooden structure—like a deck or railing—and create tunnels to form a nest and lay her eggs. Once the eggs hatch, carpenter bee offspring will return to their nest in the winter to stay warm, expanding the tunnel system as they settle in for the cold season.

This nesting habit creates the potential for severe damage to your wooden structures if left unattended, so it’s imperative that you eradicate the problem as soon as possible. 

Other signs of a carpenter bee infestation include:

  • Sawdust—when carpenter bees drill holes in wood, there will usually be sawdust around the area
  • Pollen and fecal stains—there will be a yellowish powdery substance near the entrance hole, which is a combination of pollen and bee excrement
  • Bee sightings—male carpenter bees tend to be more aggressive with their flying habits than female bees and are more often noticed flying around the hole to the nest

If you’re unsure of whether you have a carpenter bee problem or a different pest infestation, a trained professional can conduct an inspection, often for free.

Carpenter Bee Female carpenter bees will drill quarter-sized holes into wood

How to get rid of carpenter bees

Once you’ve identified that you have a carpenter bee infestation, here are six methods to get rid of these pests:

If you’re near a nest during the larval stage (early summer) or you’re treating a nest site, wear long-sleeved clothing that covers the skin, as well as gloves and a face mask.

Carpenter Bee Hole Once a carpenter bee drills a hole through wood, it continues to expand its nest by creating tunnels

How to prevent future carpenter bee infestations

The simplest way of making sure carpenter bees don’t make your home their permanent residence is to prevent them from initially moving in. Check the wood on your property and make sure it’s in good shape—painted, treated, and pressure washed. Continue to maintain your wood each year by regularly painting and staining it before springtime.

 

How to treat a carpenter bee sting

While carpenter bee stings are rare—only female carpenter bees can sting—a sting from a carpenter bee is typically not dangerous. You may experience some pain, swelling, and redness around the location of the sting and it may get itchy. However, it’s possible to get an allergic reaction from a bee sting.

If you have an allergic reaction to a carpenter bee sting, you could experience the following symptoms:

If you think you are having an allergic reaction to a bee sting, use a prescribed epinephrine injection device, like an EpiPen, as instructed. If you don’t have one of these devices, visit an urgent care or emergency room as soon as possible or call 911.  

For a bee sting that doesn’t cause an allergic reaction, follow these methods:

 

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