How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

It’s late spring and you’ve been outside enjoying the beautiful weather when you notice something on the side of your house. You’ve discovered some perfectly round holes in the wood you meant to paint at the beginning of spring and you’ve realized something moved in—a carpenter bee. How can you tell it’s a carpenter bee?

A carpenter bee looks like a bumblebee in size and color except instead of a fuzzy black body, its body is black and shiny. And it’s this bee burrowed into your wood structure in order to raise its young.

Now that you know who made the holes, you want to know how to get rid of the carpenter bees who have moved in. The good news is that it’s not hard at all and in a few simple steps, you can be rid of your carpenter bees. Here’s what you need to do to get rid of them as soon as possible.

1. Figure Out Which Burrow Holes Are Active

You might be tempted to plug up the holes you’ve found and be done with them, but remember, carpenter bees are pollinators, so you want to keep them alive, if possible. Before you grab the spackle or wood putty, find out if the burrow you see is active. After all, the hole is already made, and the carpenter bee is making or has made its nest. It’s not doing any further damage at the moment.

So, keep an eye on the hole. Do you see any movement? Are there any carpenter bees hovering around the entry hole? Are the edges of the hole crisp or do they look worn?

If you don’t see nor hear any activity around the hole, and the hole’s edges are worn, you might be looking at an inactive burrow. In that case, you can use your caulk, a dowel rod with wood glue, or putty to plug the hole. The reason you should do this is because carpenter bees can remain inside abandoned holes or re-use them.

2. Wait Them Out and Plug the Hole

If you see activity around the burrow and the hole is active, you could just wait for them to leave and then plug the hole. The only problem with that solution is that you’ll probably leave larvae inside the hole without care. In that case, you have a decision to make.

You could let the carpenter bee finish caring for its young and then plug the hole when they all leave or you could wait until the adult leaves and plug the hole then. Plugging the hole will prevent them from returning when it’s time to nest again, and by that time, you’ll have prepared your wooden structure to discourage them.

3. Bring out Your Boom Box for Good Vibrations

Maybe waiting isn’t your thing or you just don’t have time. We get that. One way to hurry things along is with music. Carpenter bees, and insects overall, are sensitive to loud noise and vibration, so take a speaker or a radio and blast it near the hole to draw them out. Once they’re out, you can plug the hole and paint the wood.

We know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if you’ll get stung and that’s a valid concern. One thing to note about carpenter bees is that only the females have stingers and they don’t normally sting unless you handle them. Males can be pretty aggressive, but they don’t have stingers, so they’re looking to intimidate you and make you leave the area. And carpenter bees don’t swarm—they’re loners for the most part.

So, while it’s likely that you won’t get stung, you might want to step away while drawing the bees out.

4. Apply Some Homemade Citrus Oil

Another way to encourage your new housemates out of their nest is to spray citrus oil around and inside their hole. Since carpenter bees don’t like citrus, this concoction should make them leave. Be sure to spray a few times to ensure that the bees are gone.

The great thing about this solution is that it’s easy to make. All you need to do is boil your preferred citrus peel and pour into a spray bottle with some water. When you’re sure all your bee guests have moved out, plug and repair the hole.

5. Prevent Further Infestations

As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to stop carpenter bees from getting cozy in your home is to paint or stain untreated wood. Regularly inspect the wood around your house and look for decaying wood or chipped paint. Repairing the wood right away and keeping it painted will discourage carpenter bees from burrowing.

Another useful thing to do, if you have a lot of carpenter bees around, is to give them a more attractive place to raise their young. Think about leaving old tree stumps or logs for the carpenter bees to burrow. Keep in mind that they prefer softwood like cedar and pine.

6. Say Goodbye to the Carpenters

Bees are important to our Earth, but they can also get into places they don’t belong and wreak havoc. And the best way to combat carpenter bees is to prevent them from burrowing into your wooden structures in the first place. But if they do get in, these solutions will help you get them out and keep them out.