Often mistaken for bumble bees, carpenter bees are insects that bore holes and tunnels in wood. If you have seen bees flying, hovering and crawling around the eaves and wooden supports of your home, it’s likely that carpenter bees are interested in making your home theirs as well. Here’s what you need to know about them.
What Makes a Carpenter Bee Unique?
Carpenter bees are usually between ¼ and one inch long, with smooth, shiny black bodies, six legs and antennae. Their hairlessness sets them apart from bumble bees, which are generally covered in yellow hair. Carpenter bees build nests by chewing holes in wood to create “galleries,” which are tunnels dug along the grain of the inside of a piece of wood. Carpenter bees, which are solitary creatures, use these galleries as nests for their eggs, to store food supplies (usually small amounts of nectar) and as refuges to wait out the winter.
Untreated, soft or old wood are often where carpenter bees dig galleries, as these kinds of wood are easier for them to dig into. Therefore, they may try to construct nests in eaves, doors, railings, shingles and anywhere else where the wood is at least two inches thick. These galleries can extend up to 4-6 inches. Besides seeing the holes they have bored as evidence of their presence, you may also see little piles of sawdust around the area. If a carpenter bee nest remains safe and untouched, they may also return to it over time and even extend it. Some carpenter bee galleries can extend up to ten feet long!
Carpenter bees do not eat wood like termites do. They eat nectar, and like their bumble bee cousins, they play an important role in the pollination process. When it is time for carpenter bees to mate and lay eggs, they create six to eight chambers within the nest galleries. Within these chambers, they will first lay down a food substance for the larvae. Commonly known as “bee bread”, this food is made of pollen and regurgitated nectar. Carpenter bees will then lay their eggs on top of the food. The chambers are then sealed off with wood pulp that the bee has chewed up in order to allow the larvae a safe place to hatch and grow into adults, a process which usually takes about 36 days.
Unlike some other types of bees, carpenter bees don’t usually sting. Males do not possess stingers, and females will only sting if directly threatened. So you need not be afraid if they start to investigate you while you’re identifying them or their nests. Just don’t try to put your finger into one of the holes they’ve dug!
How to Prevent and Get Rid of Carpenter Bees
Because carpenter bees prefer plain, bare wood, there are some fairly simple solutions you can choose to prevent them from infesting your home. You can seal and caulk any cracks or gaps outside your home. You can also paint, seal and varnish your doors, eaves or railings to make it harder for carpenter bees to get through. During springtime, when they are most active, keeping doors and openings in your home closed is a good idea, so that carpenter bees don’t find your home to be an ideal place to build a nest. It’s important to watch out for them, too, because carpenter bees can significantly damage property if allowed to nest in the wrong places.
To get rid of carpenter bees, you can try spraying insecticides just inside the holes they have dug for their nests. Once you have given the pesticides time to work, you can also seal the holes the bees made with wooden dowels or wood putty in order to prevent them from re-entering through those tunnels.
However, this process can be delicate, and requires careful and skillful handling of sensitive and dangerous chemicals. That’s why if you have a carpenter bee infestation, it’s best to call up a local exterminator. At Dodson Pest Control, we have 75 years of experience with getting rid of household pests. We can take care of your carpenter bee problem for you and identify ways to prevent them from happening again. Contact us today for a free inspection!