EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CARPENTER BEES
IDENTIFYING CARPENTER BEES
TRAPS FOR CARPENTER BEES
Unlike the more common honey bee, carpenter bees are large and mostly hairless, with a long blue-black body, roughly the size of a bumblebee. Their stingers are not barbed and though this means they can sting multiple times, they aren’t extremely aggressive. In fact, the males don’t sting at all, despite their in-your-face menacing behavior. Evidence of a carpenter bee nest comes from holes bored in unfinished or unpainted wood, particularly rails and posts for wooden fences, as the soft, exposed tops are easier to excavate. The holes are often marked by yellowish nectar, bee excrement, and sawdust, and are large to accommodate the bees’ big bodies. Carpenter bees are also solitary, making nests only for their mate and their offspring, not a whole colony. While this means a smaller infestation, it does mean that a large amount of the bees in a small area means multiple nests. Carpenter bees also like to use previously-dug nests, as excavation takes time and energy. This causes increasingly larger tunnels and a drastically increased chance for structural weakening. These tunnels can split window frames or the slats of wooden furniture, create weakpoints in joints and walls, and allow access to other wood-borne insects, like termites, to gain entry into your home. Woodpeckers also like to eat the young of the bees, creating more holes and increasing carpenter bee damage repair costs for your home.
WHAT IS A CARPENTER BEE?
Carpenter bees are oval bee shaped, large, about one inch long, and blue black in colour. They have six legs, and wings. Their class is insect, order-hymenoptera, kingdom-animalia-phylum-arthropoda, family-apidae, and species xylocopa.
Carpenter bees resemble bumble bees both in size and appearance. Carpenter bees top abdomen is free of hairs, and is of shiny black colour. Carpenter bees are solitary bees. The carpenter bee in action, drill through wood, only to build nests for themselves. They feed their young only. They build their nests in trees or in frames of buildings. Carpenter bee stingers are not barbed and they are able to sting many times. The large species of carpenter bees, Xylocopa virginica, is encountered in Pennsylvania.
The male bee guards the nest from the vicinity, and it is the male bee that is more prominent in the picture. Carpenter bees are large bees that are similar in appearance to bumble bees except, the top surface of the abdomen is almost free of hairs, and appears to be entirely black in carpenter bees. Female carpenter bee will chew the wood and make a tunnel to build a nest gallery. The worker bees are in-charge of gathering pollen and nectar from flowers to feed the larvae and members of the colony. The female carpenter bee chews and deposits the frass, the chewed dug out wood outside the nest. The tunnel openings could be deceiving as a couple of inches deep, but to the contrary, they may extend up to ten feet long! If you see large bees hovering near eaves or drilling in wood, it is an indication that you have encountered an attack of carpenter bees. The male carpenter bee is of white faced similar to that of a bald faced hornet. If you caught a white faced female hornet, she may sting you and also release an alarm pheromone, (a chemical signal) and alert many of her colleagues, worker bees, all with stingers, for the attack. It is very common for the male bee to approach people even for a quick movement or even a wave of a hand in the air. Sometimes they even hover close to people, using a scare tactic. It is merely a scare tactic, as the male carpenter bee is unable to sting. The females are not aggressive. The female bee is able to sting, but seldom does, only when she is extremely provoked, like being handled.
The young male carpenter bee and the females, go into hibernation during the winter months. Mating takes place in the spring. They then plan to have their young ones in August. The old tunnels are cleaned out and enlarged the old tunnels or excavate new chambers for their new born. The new born (larvae) is provided with bee bread, which is a rich mixture of pollen and regurgitated nectar, and protected until it developed. When food is served in every chamber, each chamber is sealed off methodically. The female bee creates six to eight chambers. When adult bees emerge in August, they feed on nectar. They then return to the tunnel in winter.
Among the many insect pests that can damage your home, carpenter bees are one of the more noticeable ones. These large, bluish/black, bees will bore half inch holes in all kinds of unprotected wood. The female carpenter bees drill tunnels that can be from a few inches to several feet long. They will then lay their eggs in the hole and provision the cavity with food for their grubs. These hole allow moisture to enter the wood and set up conditions for rot and futher insect damage not to mention weakening the wood member.
Controlling carpenter bee damage is best done by preventing it in the first place and one way to do this is to use carpenter bee traps to kill the adult bees thus controling their population. Carpenter bee traps rely on the fact that the bees will reuse empty holes if they can find them. If you watch a bee you will see that they will check out any dark spot on the wood surface to see if it is a hole. It is only if they can’t find a pre-existing hole in a piece of wood, that the bees will drill new ones. Carpenter bee traps are often hollowed out pieces of wood or plastic boxes with open holes the bees can enter. Once the carpenter bees are inside the trap they find they cannot get out and will die. There are also carpenter bee traps that can be loaded with poison for killing the bees.
Carpenter bee traps have to be put up where the bees will find then and when the bees are active usually during the spring months. Watch for the large female carpenter bees to come out when the weather warms and upon seeing the first ones, place the carpenter bee traps up under the house eves where the bees can find them. Check the traps every few days to empty them as necessary so they can hold more bees. Any existing carpenter bee holes already in the wood trim or siding should be plugged so the bees will not be tempted to use them instead of the holes in the bee traps. Puff some diatomaceous earth or some boric acid based roach powder into the holes a couple of days before closing them up. By waiting several days before closing the holes up, the adult carpenter bees will spread the poisons around to kill more bees and grubs. The holes can be sealed using wooden dowels and glue or caulking.
It is important to use enough carpenter bee traps, placed all around any areas the bees frequent, so the bees will always run into one whenever they are searching for a nesting site.