When I was getting our garden beds ready, I noticed a chunk of our deck was torn up a bit and that there was sawdust underneath it. I began cursing what I thought was a hole from a woodpecker in my recently re-stained deck. Then I saw a shiny carpenter bee go into the hole. So I checked around and found one more nest in the deck as well as one in the pillar on the front porch. Well crap.
Do Carpenter Bees Sting?
Yes and No. The ones that you see buzzing around the nests, going in and out, are the males and they have no stingers. Rejoice! They’re not coming to get you. The females are inside the nests and while they do have stingers, they’re very docile and aren’t likely to sting you unless you stick your finger in the hole or try to catch them in your hands. Carpenter Bees are great pollinators, so with them being docile it may seem like they’re harmless enough to leave them be. If mine had been in a tree, things may have been different. But this was the deck and carpenter bees can wreak havoc on your home’s structures if you leave them. Their offspring will be coming out of those nests in the Fall and create holes of their own.
Using the Pesticides Correctly
You can tell a carpenter bee’s nest easily. The holes are about a half inch in diameter and usually you’ll find either sawdust or their “leavings” that have been expelled from the hole. It took us three times using our spray of choice to figure out what we were doing wrong. We were killing males and finding the bodies near the nests, but I could still actually hear the females digging away inside and find new males coming in and out. We used the Carpenter Bee and Ground Nesting Yellow Jacket Foam with its long thin tube because the foam can be used to fill the hole and instantly kill the bees on contact rather than making them suffer.
So here’s my advice: The bees dig in a little, then turn and continue the nest sideways, so when you stick the tube in you should wiggle it around a bit to slide it down into the egg chamber a couple of inches in where the female is hiding. Then fill the hole with foam to make sure the bees and eggs are all dead. We just stuck it in straight at first and the foam expanded, but just not far enough.
Preventing New Tenants
Once you’ve killed the carpenter bees that created the nest, wait 48 hours to make sure the job is done and then seal up the hole. New carpenter bees will take the path of least resistance and move into the existing nests if you don’t. Make sure that you get an outdoor wood putty that’s stainable or paintable depending on your needs. Double check other areas you may want to seal that could be tempting for future infestations like knots or pieces damaged by animals.
The accepted advice on preventing future infestations is that the bees don’t prefer stained or painted wood, but as you can see from my own examples it doesn’t really seem to deter them. The best answer is vigilance. Check the wooden areas of your home frequently and foam those suckers out as soon as you see the signs. Good luck!
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