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carpenter bees in nature

Carpenter Bees – Nature’s Wood Chipper

Carpenter bees (the genus Xylocopa in the subfamily Xylocopinae) are the larger variety of bees that are known worldwide. There are over 500 species of carpenter bees in the 31 subgenera. They get their name “carpenter” because of their ability to build nests in wood. These are often mistaken for bumble bees due to their size. Although they are important pollinators, some species are known to “rob” nectar by slitting the sides of flowers, ultimately killing the plant.

carpenter bee trapMost carpenter bees stay solitary so you really won’t notice a nest right away. There are a couple of ways that you can identify the presence of active nests. Carpenter bees make nests by tunneling into the wood with two large mandibles. This leaves a trail of wood dust and particles that is very noticeable. Normally you will be able to trace the particle back to the nest entrance. Since carpenter bees only make one hole for an entry and exit point it can be difficult to spot. Carpenter bees do not feed on the wood but make extensive burrows. Another way you can detect a nest is to listen. Carpenter bees make a distinctive scraping sound when in process of burrowing.

Some species have a social presence, in which multiple mothers and daughters occupy the same nest and share the formation and protections of the nests. Although carpenter bees are not vastly known for total destruction, they can ruin the beauty of natural and man-made structures. They tend to avoid painted surfaces unless the paint is weathered by time. If not addressed, carpenter bees will return to used nests. This can create further damage to a structure and lead to structural failure.

It only takes about seven weeks for carpenter bees to reach maturity. This means that there could be many nests in the same general area. One nest would not be much of a threat but when you have multiple nests the damage is increased. It is important to find the nests and use control methods to prevent this.

There are several methods for the extermination and control of carpenter bee nests. Some require a pest control professionals and some you can apply on your own. Either way, do your research if you decide to hire a professional of take it on yourself. Carpenter bees do not sting but can have aggressive behavior to make you believe they have the ability to. Here are a few known applications that can be effective.

carpenter bee wood damageInsecticide Dust – This method is the most common. Your professional will locate the nest and apply the dust in and around the entry hole. The hole is left open for a few days so all incoming and outgoing bees will come into contact with the dust application. For the best results it is recommended that this method is used within a period of dry conditions.

Insecticide Liquid – This method is only a temporary method as the liquid will dissipate over a period of time allowing bees to return. This, however, requires the least amount of time to apply.

Painting – This is more of a control technique than an extermination. This method simply requires you to paint the surface with exterior paint or a polyurethane finish. Since carpenter bees tend to stay away from treated surfaces this method would deter them. This does require regular upkeep for the treated surfaces.

Bee Traps – This is one method that does not use any type of insecticide or other chemicals that could harm the environment. These are simply wooden fixtures that fool the bees into thinking it is a ready-made home. Once the bees enter they cannot figure out how to get out and eventually die. These traps are made to be attractive and to blend in with natural or man-made structures. This is one of the most preferred methods because of its simplicity and availability. You can find these at many of your home improvement stores at a reasonable price.