Carpenter Bees: Pollinator or Pest?
Tips on Preventing Property Damage and Promoting Pollinators


Sitting out on your wooden deck you might hear the gentle scratches and creaking of carpenter bees hard at work. For many, this noise brings the dread of property destruction and the decision to eradicate this pest. But did you know that, despite burrowing into your wood fixtures, carpenter bees are also important pollinators?

title

Pollinator or Pest?
Carpenter bees are large bees similar in shape and size to a bumble bee, but with a shiny solid-black abdomen. They are solitary bees with little to no interest in humans and typically only sting when held. The females create nests by burrowing into untreated wood and making a series of chambers where they lay their eggs. The bees then forage for pollen and bring it back to nourish their young. Each year they return to the same nest and burrow deeper into the wood with each passing spring. Eventually long, finger-sized burrows stretch the length of the boards creating opportunities for moisture to enter the wood and lead to issues like rot.

The benefits of pollinator species is well documented, as is their decline, but the damage that carpenter bees cause to outdoor wood features can be costly. So how can we balance the preservation of pollinator species and prevent property damage?

title

Damage Control
The key to controlling carpenter bee populations on your property is timing. Completing any treatments to wood and wood features before the establishment of new spring bees helps control the returning population and discourage future populations from putting down roots. If bees are already present, making sure they are not in any holes while applying treatments is important. Carpenter bees are very sensitive to vibrations. To chase bees out of their nest (Remember they are not prone to stinging!), place a vacuum cleaner over the tunneled area. The bees will fly out of the exit, and it will give you a chance to apply treatments to prevent their return.


Prevention Methods
  • Block the holes: Once the bees have left their nest in the wood, block the entrance with wood putty or steel wool to prevent them from burrowing back into the nest.
  • Treat holes and nests with essential oils: Many essential oils (tea tree, eucalyptus, citrus) are powerful in warding off bees and other unwanted insects. Using 20-30 drops of eucalyptus or citrus oil in 8 ounces of water can be an effective prevention spray. If using tea tree oil, use 1 TBS per 8 ounces of water. These will be very pungent, so it is important to not consume these remedies yourself!
  • Install vinyl siding or treat or paint the wood: Carpenter bees love untreated wood. Once the bees are gone and the holes have been sealed, painting the wood with outdoor paint or treating it can make it unsuitable for nests.
  • Provide alternative shelter: If you enjoy the humming presence of a lingering carpenter bee or want to have plants that attract pollinators, but do not want them to destroy your outdoor spaces, try purchasing or building an alternative space for the bees to enjoy. Pollinator, or bee, hotels are often made of cedar or bamboo and allow the bees to establish their nests in a space designed to house them.

title