If you notice large, yellow-and-black bees buzzing around the outside of your home, you may think that bumblebees have come to pay a visit. However, the insects you’re seeing might be carpenter bees, and they could be building a nest in your home.
Below is more information about carpenter bees, as well as what you need to know about their impact on your home and how to control them.
An Introduction to Carpenter Bees
There are numerous species of carpenter bees, but most carpenter bees are black with some combination of yellow or white coloration. Carpenter bees can be found around the world, and almost all of them are instinctual wood borers.
As such, carpenter bees are named for their insatiable desire to construct nests in wooden objects, including human habitations. Unlike wood-eating insects such as termites, carpenter bees don’t consume wood but instead dispose of leftover shavings or utilize them in nest construction.
How to Differentiate Carpenter Bees From Other Bees
It is important to know the difference between carpenter bees and other bees due to the negative environmental impact that mistaken control measures can bring. For example, the indiscriminate killing of bumblebees and honeybees can do significant harm to plant life dependent upon the bees’ pollinating activities.
Carpenter bees are often confused with bumblebees due to similarities between the two. Both carpenter bees and bumblebees grow between a half-inch to one-inch in length, which makes them much larger than their diminutive honeybee cousins. In addition, both carpenter bees and bumblebees are black and yellow, which can make identification difficult at first glance.
However, there are significant differences between carpenter bees and bumblebees that positively identify each species. The most visible difference is that bumblebees are covered in fur, while carpenter bees have a furry thorax, but smooth and shiny abdomen.
Carpenter Bee Behavior
Carpenter bees don’t live in large colonies in the same way honeybees do but instead are only casually communal. Each female bee usually constructs its own nest, though nests are often fairly close together. In some species of carpenter bees, females may form small family groups and share the work of building and running the nesting sites.
The female carpenter bee uses its sharp mouthparts to carve out a half-inch, round opening in a chosen wood surface. Once the initial opening is in place, the female bee creates tunnels with multiple chambers separated by sawdust “walls.” These chambers will eventually serve as nurseries for the eggs and newly hatched bees.
Male carpenter bees don’t share in the nest building but instead are responsible for mating with the females and guarding the nest openings. Male bees are excellent at bluffing, as they will aggressively dive at potential threats, including humans, but are incapable of causing injury due to their absence of stingers.
How Carpenter Bees Impact People
Carpenter bees pose little threat to humans directly, since males can’t sting, and the docile females rarely use their stingers. However, carpenter bee’s biggest nuisance to mankind is their ability to damage homes and other wooden structures.
While most carpenter bee damage is cosmetic, prolonged infestations can do structural harm. In addition, the openings made by carpenter bees can expose the vulnerable, soft wood to other dangers, such as mold or other insects. Finally, the unsightly holes and feces stains left by the bees reduce the curb appeal of a home and can hurt its overall value.
How to Handle Carpenter Bees
If you suspect that carpenter bees are nesting in your home, the first step is to make sure that carpenter bees are the source of your trouble. By comparing the bees’ colors and patterns with other species and identifying the tell-tale round holes made by bees, you can rule out other problems that might be causing damage to your home.
After positively identifying the carpenter bee threat, the next step is to carefully consider your options for control. It is important to avoid using an over-the-counter bug spray, as these may not be effective and can cause more harm than good.
Below are a few ways you can end a carpenter bee problem.
Plug the Openings
A straightforward way to deal with carpenter bees is to plug the nest openings with wooden dowels and steel wool. Insert a small wad of steel wool into the hole and pack it tightly in place with a screwdriver. Next, cut a small length of a dowel of the right diameter, coat it with wood glue, and insert it into the opening. You can apply caulk around any cracks that may remain.
Paint the Affected Wood
Carpenter bees prefer unpainted or unfinished wood, so if you have any exposed wood surfaces that are under attack, be sure to paint them with a quality exterior paint. Stain may offer a little protection, but a solid coat of paint is preferable for keeping carpenter bees from boring holes.
Contact a Professional
The best way to handle a carpenter bee problem is to contact a professional pest control company. For example, Chem-Wise provides environmentally sound and effective pest control solutions and can help you rid your home of a carpenter bee problem.