Bees may be small in size, but they play a major role in ecosystems, pollinating trees, flowers, and other plants. But one type of bee does more than pollinate: the carpenter bee.
Unlike bumblebees or honeybees, carpenter bees don’t live in colonies. Instead, they tunnel into wood, creating a nest (which looks like a small, round hole) to lay their eggs, according to Dr. Michael F. Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment.
And sometimes, the wood they select for their nest happens to be part of humans’ homes. If you’ve discovered that carpenter bees have made themselves at home in your home, you may want to encourage them to nest elsewhere—without harming them, and, in turn, the local ecosystem. Here’s how to do that.
What to know about carpenter bees
Carpenter bees are large and black, and look a lot like bumblebees. The difference is that carpenter bees usually have a shiny, hairless abdomen, while bumblebees typically have a hairy abdomen with black and yellow stripes.
When it comes to finding a place to nest, carpenter bees gravitate towards unpainted, weathered wood—particularly softer varieties, like redwood, cedar, cypress, and pine, Potter notes. So when they decide to move into your home, they prefer spots like eaves, rafters, fascia boards, siding, wooden shake roofs, decks, and outdoor furniture.
And while carpenter bees usually don’t do as much damage as termites, they can cause both cosmetic and structural damage, Potter explains:
Female carpenter bees excavate new tunnels in wood for egg laying, or enlarge and reuse old ones. Significant damage can occur when the same pieces of wood are infested year after year. Holes in the wood surface also facilitate moisture intrusion, rot and decay.
For the most part, carpenter bees are not fans of painted wood. So painting any unfinished wood surfaces on your home can prevent them from creating nests in the first place.
How to safely get rid of carpenter bees
If carpenter bees have already made your home their home, there are a few ways to encourage them to move along, without harming the little pollinators. Here are a few featured in an article by Julia Rittenberg in Popular Science:
- Apply a drop of almond or citrus oil inside carpenter bees’ nest holes, Nick Hoefly, a beekeeper at Astor Apiaries in Queens, New York told Popular Science. They’re not fans of those scents, and will probably want to move along and find somewhere else to nest. Once they’ve moved out, fill in the holes with wood putty or steel wool.
- Hang up some wind chimes. According to Hoefly, carpenter bees hate the sound of them, so the constant racket might drive them away.
- Leave some pieces of weathered, unfinished wood that you no longer need out in the open—but far enough away from your house—to provide the carpenter bees with alternative housing.