Wood bees or the carpenter bees are a huge menace to your wooden furniture and if you want to know how to get rid of wood bees read on. Scary looking, these insects don’t have stingers, but the females will sting you if you aggravate them. They are smart enough to make their nests in soft, untreated woods such as pine, cedar and redwood rather than the treated lumber and hardwoods. They bore tunnels inside the wood resulting in fresh sawdust. There is nothing to worry about if the damage is limited to just one or two holes, however, if the infestation had been ignored for years, the damage can lead to structural defects and weaken the wood. If the infested wood is exposed to moisture, rotting can take place. So what are these wood bees and how to get rid of wood bees? Here are a few facts that can help you determine the type of infestation and how it can be dealt with.
What are wood bees?
Wood bees, also commonly known as Carpenter bees are large black bees with shiny hairless backs, very similar in appearance and size to bumble bees except for the hair. Another point of difference is that while bumble bees are social and nest in hives, wood bees prefer being on their own and lay their eggs by making holes in wood and creating tunnels and chambers to use as a shelter or for nesting. Around your house, you would probably find them hovering on the wood work around the eaves, windows, doors, awnings, etc. looking to drill into the wood.
Tell Tale Signs of Wood Bee Infestation
- Saw dust sprinkling or piles under wood awnings
- Holes in woodwork
- Stains caused by their feces on the wall near their nests
- Scraping noise emanating from wood
Some Important Facts about Wood Bees
- These bees prefer to attack soft woods however they may sometimes attack even hardwoods.
- Male bees do not sting at all though they do show aggressive behavior to frighten off intruders. Females on the other hand do bite if really provoked.
- Spring is the mating season for carpenter bees. This is the time they look for creating new nests after cleaning out the ones used in winters. Late fall is when the cycle gets repeated again.
- Carpenter bees and their brood tend to return to their old nesting places so home owners not only need to treat existing or old holes but also take preventive methods.
Extent of Damage Caused by Wood Bees
Wood bees do not eat wood, and a single bee alone may not cause too much damage to the wood to begin with, but over time as it breeds and increases its brood, it may weaken the wood completely by drilling a number of holes, long tunnels and multiple chambers in the wood work. If you do not take damage control measures, you may end up having to replace the wood in the affected area. Apart from this, the feces of wood bees leave brownish yellow stains on the wall below their holes. Also, these holes may allow moisture to enter your woodwork leading to the wood rotting from inside and damaging your home. Another problem with carpenter bees is that they attract birds like the woodpecker which prey on these insects and their larvae.
How to Get Rid of Wood Bees
- Using Traps: Wood bee traps may be both homemade and professionally made. The readymade traps are made of wood have holes on both sides to lure the bees. Once the bees enter the trap, they move towards the end which has light coming in and in the process, fall inside the bee catcher. Traps made of paper and cardboard are also available and are less heavy and expensive than the wooden ones. These traps are made of bright colors to attract the bees and have glue inside to which the bees get stuck. These traps are easily available online and may or may not contain the bee collector jar so do your research and buy the type that you prefer. If you are into DIY carpentry, then it should be an easy job for you to make the trap yourself at home using wood, plastic bottles, drill, and basic carpentry tools like a saw, a hammer and a few nails. Traps are a great solution for getting rid of the bees as they are eco-friendly, natural, cheap, long lasting, and safe method.
- Sealing: Another popular option to get rid of this problem is to seal the holes made by the bees and trap them inside. This can be done by applying putty or a weather-resistant caulk (sealant) or a cork at the entrance. The bees are not usually known to burrow a hole through these materials.
- Vacuuming: Vacuuming is a great option if you would rather not use insecticides to kill the bees. However, it should be used only if the nest is still new and the colony is relatively smaller. Make sure you do the cleaning only after the bees have returned to the nest in the evening. Poke the holes with a stick and use the vacuum cleaner hose to agitate them and suck the bees. Remember to have protecting clothing on before trying out this method. Once the bees have been cleaned out, seal the holes with putty or caulk and dispose of the bag containing the bees safely.
- Spraying Insecticides: Insecticides can be used in both dust and liquid form to get rid of these bees. Spring is the ideal season for using them as this is when new nests are built by the bees for laying eggs. Wear protective clothing and use a puffer to coat the insides with insecticide dust during the evening. Wait while these bees come in contact with the dust and clear out and then seal the hole. You can also buy kits that have residual insecticides that can be sprayed in the wholes after mixing them with water.
- Extermination: If all else fails and the damage to your woodwork is extensive, call the professionals to exterminate these bees.
Some Natural Measures
- Vinegar: Spray a good quantity of undiluted vinegar or other citrus solutions into the holes and then use steel wool to plug the hole tightly.
- Almond Oil: Pour some almond oil in and around the holes. Carpenter bees do not like the strong fragrance of this oil at all and tend to stay away from it. This method is good to keep the bees away for a few months.
- Boric Acid Powder: Sprinkling Boric powder around the nests is also known to keep the bees away.
- Diatomaceous Earth: This is a powder made of fossilized diatom algae. The power particles have sharp edges that can cut through the insects. Wait till the bees have gone out for the day before sprinkling the powder inside the hole. The bees will get killed as they return and come in contact with the powder.
How to Protect Exteriors of the House
Prevention is always better than cure and taking measures to protect the exteriors of the house from an attack by wood bees can save a lot of time, effort, and money. Here are some things you can do to make the exteriors pest-proof:
- Paint: Carpenter bees tend to attack unpainted and stained wood. Painting the wood work makes it unrecognizable as wood to these winged creatures. So, the best way to keep these bees away is to paint the exteriors. If there are stains, try to put a gloss coating on it as the hard shiny surface has no appeal for the wood bees. These bees are known to sometimes attack the wood even when they are painted, so be sure to mix organic paint and stain additive NBS 30 insect repellant to paint or stain for a lasting effect.
- Spraying insecticides: Spraying pesticides like Deltamethrin or Cypermethrin to outdoor wooden surfaces may help repelling the bees temporarily, usually for a few weeks. After that, you need to do the spraying again. As such, it makes sense to use this measure during spring and late fall, the peak mating and nesting seasons. When spraying, treat the whole wood work instead of just the area where you spot bee activity. Once they get disappointed after inspecting the whole outer wood work, chances are high that they won’t return soon.
- Use Vinyl Sidings and Trims: Another preventive measure may be to use vinyl sidings or other non-wood materials like aluminum, fiber, etc. for home exteriors.
- Use Treated Wood: if you must use wood, stick to treated lumber. Also, treated hardwood would be less prone to attack than treated softwood.
- Fill Any Cracks in the Wood: Before painting the wood, look for any dents, holes, cracks, etc and fill them up as they tend to attract wood bees.
How to Protect Interiors of the House
Though home interiors are less likely to be infested by carpenter bees, it’s always better to guard against them. The best way to do it is to paint and stain all wooden surfaces, paneling, and furniture. Inspect wood trims regularly for sign of insect activity and seal the holes wherever you see them if you want to get rid of wood bees.