By: Stephen B. Bambara and Michael Waldvogel, Entomology Extension
|Insect Note - ENT/rsc-4|
bees are large, black and yellow bees frequently seen in spring hovering
around the eaves of a house or the underside of a deck or porch rail. They
are most often mistaken for bumble bees, but differ in that they have a
black shiny tail section.The carpenter bee is so-called because of its habit
of excavating tunnels in wood with its strong jaws. The round
half-inch diameter entrance holes are usually found on the underside
of a board. A tell-tale trace of coarse sawdust is often found on the surface
beneath the hole. Wooden decks, overhangs and
other exposed wood on houses are prime targets. Painted and treated woods are less preferred, but they are by no means immune to attack.
Unpainted or stained cedar, cypress and redwood shingles and siding are also attacked despite their pest-resistant reputations. Carpenter bees, like their distant relatives, the carpenter ants, differ from termites in that they do not consume the wood as food. They simply excavate tunnels for nesting sites.
Typically, carpenter bees do not cause serious structural damage to wood unless large numbers of bees are allowed to drill many tunnels over successive years. The bees often eliminate their wastes before entering the tunnel. Yellowish-brown staining from voided fecal matter may be visible on the wood beneath the hole as seen in the picture above. Woodpeckers may damage infested wood in search of bee larvae in the tunnels. In the case of thin wood, such as siding, this damage can be severe. Holes on exposed surfaces may lead to damage by wood-decaying fungi or attack by other insects, such as carpenter ants. CONTROL
Preventing carpenter bee damage is difficult (or nearly impossible) for several reasons. Protective insecticide sprays applied to wood surfaces are effective for only a short period even when repeated every few weeks. Since the bees are not actually eating the wood and they are active over several weeks, they are rarely exposed to lethal doses of the pesticide. Second, since virtually any exposed wood on the house could be attacked, it is difficult and usually impractical and unsafe to try applying a pesticide to all possible sites where the bees might tunnel. Trying to spray bees that are seen hovering about is not a sensible (or particularly safe) use of pesticides either. Swatting hovering bees will often prove to be just as effective.
Although it is a time-consuming
and seemingly endless task,
treating the entrance holes with an insecticidal spray or dust can reduce
Products containing carbaryl (Sevin), cyfluthrin or resmethrin among
other chemicals are suitable. A list of chemicals for use against carpenter
bees can be found in the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual.
Avoid inhaling the insecticide or
contaminating your clothing with the spray. Always stand upwind
from the surface you're treating. Treated tunnels should be sealed
with a small ball of aluminum foil and caulked after 24-36 hours.
Since active or abandoned tunnels may be used as overwintering sites
or can be re-used next spring for nesting, it is important that they
be sealed. The insecticide treatment is important because it kills both
the adult bee as well as any offspring as they attempt to emerge later.
Simply plugging untreated tunnels with wire mesh or similar material
might trap bees inside, but more resourceful bees will simply chew another
|Pest information and control
recommendations presented here were developed for North Carolina and may
not be appropriate for other states or regions. Any recommendations for
the use of chemicals are included solely as a convenience to the reader
and do not imply that insecticides are necessarily the sole or most appropriate
method of control. Any mention of brand names or listing of commercial
products or services in the publication does not imply endorsements by
North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar
products or services. All recommendations for pesticide use were legal
at the time of publication, but the status of pesticide registrations
and use patterns are subject to change by actions of state and federal
regulatory agencies. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for
using these products according to the regulations in their state and to
the guidelines on the product label. Before applying any chemical, always
obtain current information about its use and read the product label carefully.
For assistance, contact the Cooperative
Extension Center in your county.
Distributed in furtherance of the acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
RSC Insect Notes