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Carpenter Bee Damage. Can It Sting You?

Last Updated: 05.10.20

 

Dealing with a carpenter bee infestation can be rather difficult, especially given that they can produce a lot of damage. If you have already bought some carpenter bee traps, but you want to learn more about this topic, keep reading!

 

About carpenter bees

Even though carpenter bees do not eat wood, they can still cause serious damage because of their habit of boring and creating tunnels into wood. Differently from other species of bees, carpenter bees are not social creatures and they do not live in common hives. Instead, these insects build their nests into trees, or in frames and other wood-made structures.

Because they can dig holes into wood, if left untreated, a bee infestation can lead to structural damage to your home. This happens when the bees create numerous hives over several years. This is why it is recommended that you take action when you notice signs of an infestation. 

At first glance, you might think that carpenter bees are bumblebees. However, these bees do not have any yellow markings. 

There are numerous species of carpenter bees out there. Still, there are two main categories of bees that you should know about, large carpenter bees – that are called Xylocopa, and small bees –known as Ceratina. If you have been dealing with damage caused by carpenter bees, you are, most likely, dealing with an infestation with Xylocopa.

Xylocopa bees measure between 12 and 25 mm in length and they have a blackish, greenish, blue, or purple color. Males have yellow sections on their faces. 

Ceratina bees are smaller, as they usually measure 8 mm in length. These bees are dark in color, they have scant body hairs and an overall metallic appearance. They also have some yellow markings on their faces.

 

What attracts carpenter bees?

If you have recently finished a construction project, and you have wood lying around in your yard, this might attract carpenter bees. These insects are attracted to weathered and unfinished wood. Wood siding, unprotected plank ends, and old carpenter bees are also items that might cause these insects to pay you a visit.

Just like any other pollinators, carpenter bees are also attracted by flowers. So, if you have a garden filled with flowers, some carpenter bees might come around.

While these bees are not necessarily very harmful, as they rarely sting, they can still cause damage to your property and they can also create stains due to their feces. 

 

Signs of an infestation

The one thing that is a clear sign that you have unwanted visitors is the presence of round and smooth holes into wood. To catch the infestation right from the get-go it is advisable that you regularly check the wood structures of your home and that you look for holes. 

One thing that you can do to deter these bees from damaging your property is to paint and stain the untreated wood. Also, you can seal any crevices in the foundation of your home, and repair any damage by using a silicone-based caulk. 

To prevent these insects from getting into your home, it is best that you keep your doors closed as much as possible and that you use protective screens on your windows. 

 

Do they sting?

Only female carpenter bees can sting. However, they only rarely do so, when they feel attacked. Male bees cannot sting as they do not have stingers. This is true in the case of all bees. As you probably know, a stinger is a modified ovipositor.  Still, this does not mean that they will not buzz or fly towards you aggressively when they feel threatened. This type of behavior is rather common during the mating season.

Similarly to bumblebees, carpenter bees can sting multiple times before they die, as they have smooth stingers. If you are allergic to histamines, being stung by a bee can be rather dangerous. If you do not get the needed help, there is a chance that you can die as a result of a sting by a bee. Only one percent of all people stung by bees die because of this. 

Because of their size, these insects can be rather scary and they usually manage to drive people away. To avoid being stung by these bees, it is important that you avoid leaving untreated wood in your yard, and that you take precautionary measures to keep them away. 

 

When are carpenter bees active?

Carpenter bees are most active in the spring, between April and May, as well as in the summer. They usually dig their nests around the porch rails, the eaves of one’s home, or under one’s deck. 

The most common time of the year when you will most likely see these insects is in early spring when the females and the males leave their nests and start looking for a mate. In most cases, females will use older nests to lay eggs, or they excavate new ones. One nest is usually sufficient for a female bee to lay between six to eight eggs.

 

How to get rid of carpenter bees?

The first step that you have to take to ensure that these bees won’t damage your property refers to preventative measures. If this first step fails, and you start noticing them drilling holes in your walls or wood fixtures, it is time to start the process of eliminating these unwanted intruders. You can do so by either using bee traps and insecticides yourself, or by hiring professional help. 

When you use insecticide, it is important that you apply it into the holes made by these bees and that you leave these holes open for a couple of days. This way, when the bees return, they will come into contact with the solution and they will die.

Once the bees are eliminated, you can seal the holes and you can apply a new coat of paint to the wood surface to deter new bees.

However, if you have little experience when it comes to dealing with these insects, you should hire professionals who can easily tackle the issue with the appropriate equipment. One mistake that you can make as a novice is to trap the bees in the hole. When this happens, the insects will continue to drill and, thus, will only cause more damage to your property. 

Moreover, if you fail to use the insecticide correctly, there is a risk that you accidentally harm your pets or yourself. This is why it is recommended that you take the time to read the instructions made available by the manufacturer of the insecticide before you utilize it. 

 

Why are carpenter bees important?

Even though they can prove to be quite a nuisance, carpenter bees play an important role in the ecosystem. Just like other types of bees, these insects are important pollinators that help with the process of naturally pollinating various types of plants.

In a way, it could be argued that we depend on these pollinators on a day to day basis. According to statistics, insects such as carpenter bees contribute immensely to our agricultural industry. 

Nowadays, because of the decline of natural pollinators due to various diseases and the use of pesticides, these insects are even more valuable than before. This is why numerous organizations argue against the use of insecticides when dealing with a carpenter bee infestation.

While it is important to protect your property from damage, some suggest that you should only start considering ways to keep these insects away if many of them have set home in your yard and if they keep returning year after year. 

If this is not the case, the best option for you would be to paint all the wood surfaces that they might nest in and to leave an old log unpainted for them to use. 

 

Natural ways to get rid of carpenter bees

If you are against the use of chemical solutions against carpenter bees, you should know that there are plenty of natural preventative options that you can also try.

For instance, you can spray a citrus scent on the areas that the bees have started to dig into. To create a poignant mixture, you should use the juice and the peels of fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, orange, or lime. 

Some oils can also be used to repel these insects. Specialists argue that oils like jojoba, citronella, or lavender can be mixed and then spritzed over the problematic area. A mix of apple cider vinegar and citrus oil might also yield the expected results. 

 

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