One Way to Deal with Carpenter Bees

May 27, 2011

LAST NIGHT, I headed out under the cloak of darkness in order to deal with destructive carpenter bees. For weeks these insects, which resemble bumble bees, have been drilling nesting-holes in the pressure-treated fence posts which enclose my Herb Garden. You can see one such bee in action in the photo up top. A Google search revealed several chemical means of control, and one insanely-easy, non-chemical fix. Can you guess which method I chose?

As it turns out, stopping carpenter bees needn’t involve insecticidal dusts and sprays. A simple jar of wood putty will do. Wait until darkness descends, for this is when most of the bees will be in their nests. Then seal any and all holes which the bees have drilled into the wood.

Although the bees are quite capable of drilling their way out of a sealed hole, it is not in their nature to do so. Instead, they prefer to go down with the ship (or a fence post, in this case). I probably used more putty than I needed to; later I’ll go out and sand off the surplus.

I’ll let you know if the putty-job really works. This morning I discovered three very confused carpenters flying from post to post. I suspect they are wondering what happened to their doorways of destruction. Hopefully they will move on — my property is bordered by woods, and there they can find plenty of downed trees in which to make their nests. I just want them to stay away from my fence posts.


Have you had to confront carpenter bees?

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Comments

  1. Brenda Johnson says:

    I will be trying this!!! We deal with hoards of these buggers every summer on our front porch!!! We actually had to replace an original to the house wooden door several years ago because of them- looked like there had been a shootout there were so many holes- right through the door!!!

  2. Katreader says:

    I've never seen such a critter. I do have to deal with wasps-ones that make tunnels underground as well!

  3. Brenda – Why they choose to make their nests so close to people/activity is beyond me. The bees themselves are not aggressive, thank goodness. But their destructive habit is formidable.

    Katreader – I loathe wasps and yellow jackets. They can be very aggressive.

  4. Eric says:

    Kevin, that is a great idea. I hate those hole-makers!

  5. Yes, I've got them, and I plan the same approach with some putty one of these days. The ones I have are territorial, and do not like to be watched! I was watching a pair the other day, and one of them dived bombed my panama hat! Apparently, they don't mind me working around them, but they didn't appreciate my staring!

  6. Stephie – I know what you mean about the dive-bombing! It's the males who hover and bomb. They are all bark and no bite…Nature did not equip them with a stinger.

    The females can sting; but apparently they will only attack if cornered, or if they feel their nest is in danger.

  7. Anonymous says:

    How sad. They'll gladly repay you for the use of your fence post by pollinating your garden.
    They are actually a beneficial insect.

  8. Anonymous – I hear you. Initially I planned to simply sigh and bear the damage of these carpenter bees. But then they began drilling into four fence posts, making 9 holes in total. My beagle kept trying to eat them.

    Now carpenter bees have made nests in the shed that's several feet away from the Herb Garden. These I will leave alone. They are beneficial insects.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I find that chewed bubble gum inserted into drilled hole has the same effect as putty.

    Elaine

  10. Elaine – excellent idea! I suspect the gum should be sugar-free…otherwise it might attract other insects.

  11. Ed says:

    one way to deal w carpenter bees is spray them with Raid. they're boring into our beach house!

  12. Tammy says:

    Kevin, we've had a few carpenter bee holes appear in our porch pillars this summer and I recalled your article. Any update you can provide? Did the putty solution work? Thanks!~

  13. Tammy – Thanks for inviting this follow-up. The bees, which had not laid their eggs yet, simply returned to the posts, and re-opened the holes I'd covered with putty. Putty works only AFTER the eggs have been laid.

    To finally deter them, I sprayed every fence post in the Herb Garden with Raid Wasp & Hornet. No bees were killed, since the spray was applied before nests were made.

    And by the way, this Raid product leaves an oily residue. Spray it on your pillars before the bees arrive in mid-spring, and they won't attempt to nest there. Carpenters are very, very destructive!

  14. Pam says:

    Kevin: I tried the putty several years ago with no good results. The only thing that they cannot drill through is steel wool. I plugged the holes with steel wool and no more bees in that hole but they will bore new holes next to it ior elsewhere. I let them get in my face, as if to say this is our territory lady, then I swat them with a tennis or badmitten racket really hard. It doesn’t kill themas they are like little armour with wings. But as soon as they hit the ground, I step on them. Must be done quickly as they fly away veryt quickly.

  15. Robin Chapman Tucker says:

    I have to deal with them, ALL the time…I hate killing them because they are so cute, but I have to do it because they drill holes in my porch…and I have some of the most ill tempered brown faced wasps that come to my front porch–have been stung multiple times by them for doing nothing more than coming out my door…last summer was stung 11 times at once without even provoking them..so they had to go, as I did not want children attacked. My WORST experience was when I was watering the garden with a skirt on and stepped on a yellow jacket nest that was in the ground…it was NOT good. Not good at all.

  16. Pam – I had to chuckle at that good-cop, bad-cop approach!

    Robin – I can relate to your yellow jacket experience. One summer, while cleaning the porch outside the dining room, I picked up an old plastic bag. Guess who was nesting in it? I ran around the house trying to escape them, but they followed me and they kept stinging and stinging as I ran. It was a frightening episode, to say the least!

  17. krystal says:

    i’ve sealed there holes severeal times they drill out put new holes …. ive been told to make them a house and hang it

  18. What are the best certificates to have for gardening and carpentry to
    impress employers and customers if self employed?.

  19. S B says:

    Don’t take the bees lightly. I understand they pollinate and it is a battle of me (I’m more aggressive than my partner) or them. They act differently state-to-state. In the North, you could easily kill them – queen and all. But there were few. In the South, they bore and infest.

    We both hate chemicals but all the do it yourself stuff on the internet may last a short period of time – three years or more – but they will be back. I’ve:
    1. Batted the drones and killed them effectively.
    2. Putty does not work and is a joke.
    3. Slathered paint on top of steel wool stuffed into and sideways into the wood – works for some period of time.

    I’m in NC at the base (2000′ +/-) of a mountain in a small development. Any non-one story house is difficult to get someone who isn’t conning you from a pesticide company to treat the problem. But I found one from a neighbor who is intelligent and dependable. THAT is important.* The gentleman used a 40′ ladder and treated facia on both sides of our house. The droppings (black and built up) were there. I asked him to clean it for me so I’d know if he took care of the issue. He did with enzymes.

    *Used Orkin but the result was ridiculous and the boys didn’t feel any holes in the facia – I watched for maybe 15-20 minutes the bees going in and out. They just didn’t have the right working tools and didn’t know what they were doing. The new fellow sprayed and within a minute (literally) one queen dropped out dead and I found another a while later.

    He treated our simple fence (but it is large – 4′ high but 34 split rails). He said notify him if I see frass (result of the borers dropping out wood “shavings”). It’s several days later and to my surprise I saw new frass on the weeds; it has rained several times since he was here and that eliminated all old frass. I drew a diagram and noted the # of holes in each rail. I will let him know in another week he needs to come back.

    It is a war. It is a battle. The bees (drones) are harmless to people but they will kill a house. My hearing is non-existent so I don’t hear the larva (1/2″ long – saw them dead when I took apart a rail). Spraying Sevin on the outside (carbryll – bad spelling) isn’t effective. It needs to go in the hole. the don’t eat it. Pesticide companies have stronger stuff. Ultimately you have to decide how far you want to carry this. But watch it, mark it (pad of paper or whatever) and keep track of where they’re going. Keep in mind your neighbors may not be doing anything, so they will be back. This is probably also reportable to your local county. I read somewhere they can be fined and the county will take care of the issue and charge you.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Carpenter bees I generally ignore as I’ve found them harmless and they are good for the garden. They are easy to identify due to their size, coloration pattern and hovering pattern – they look similar to bumblebees. However, they have no real interest in humans and only the females sting if threatened. They can be destructive to wooden structures so if you are invaded you may need to eradicate or relocate them. [...]

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