How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees?

Also called wood bees, carpenter bees are avid excavators that are attracted to unfinished or weathered wood. They don’t actually eat the wood surrounding your home, but rather tunnel into it to create nests. Though carpenter bees themselves are harmless, the damage they cause can be frustrating.

There are both natural and chemical remedies to drive away carpenter bees. Natural remedies include citrus scents, oils such as almond oil, and other repellents made from common products found in the home. Chemical remedies primarily consist of pesticides and other chemical-based solutions.

Besides creating unsightly damage to your home, their feces can also create hard-to-remove stains. And though they aren’t dangerous, it can be distracting to have them buzzing around your porch or deck. 

Ways to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

There are a number of ways to get rid of carpenter bees, which typically fall into one of two categories: natural methods or chemical methods.

  • Natural – Many natural oils and scents repel carpenter bees, such as citrus fruits, a mixture of oils, vinegar mixed with garlic and oil, and borate and certain wood preservatives.
  • Chemical – Pesticides and other chemical treatments are effective at killing nesting galleries and adult carpenter bees. Residual liquid treatments, carpenter bee sprays/ aerosols, and insecticide dust are three examples of chemical treatments.

If you want to know how to kill carpenter bees, then chemical treatment is your best bet. Many professional companies offer insecticide dust; once applied to the inside of the nest, it can kill carpenter bees within a few days. After that, the holes can be sealed.

If you want to know how to get rid of wood bees without killing them, then natural methods are the way to go. Though artificial methods can be effective, natural preventatives tend to be more long-lasting.

Another approach to treating carpenter bees are carpenter bees traps, specially designed to attract and trap carpenter bees without killing them. You can place or hang these over the galleries, though they’re not as efficient as natural or chemical remedies.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Naturally

There are a wide variety of natural treatment methods for carpenter bees, including citrus scents, oil mixtures, vinegar mixture, and wood preservatives. Some of these natural remedies can be created using products you likely already have in your home, while others involve specialty ingredients.

Natural and home remedies that drive away carpenter bees without killing them are affordable, easy to make, and effective. Here are some ways you can get rid of wood bees without using chemicals:

  • Spraying citrus scents, such as lemon, orange, lime, etc.
  • Applying oils, such as almond, tea tree, or eucalyptus
  • Using a mixture of white vinegar, garlic, and cooking oil
  • Adding wood preservatives to your deck, eaves, etc.
  • Creating solutions using household products like rubbing alcohol
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If you notice holes or nesting galleries from carpenter bees in the off-season, you can also take this opportunity to naturally prevent carpenter bees. Fill the holes with caulk or wood filler and then repaint them; this will prevent the bees from returning next year.

Prior to sealing up the galleries, make sure to run a flexible wire through them. This will displace any adults and break up the pollen plugs that developing wood bees feed on.

Once you’ve made sure there are no bees inside, then you can seal them up. Sealing a hole with a carpenter bee still inside will result in them creating a new tunnel to exit from.

What Smells Do Carpenter Bees Hate?

Carpenter bees are especially adverse to citrus scents, such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. They also dislike certain oils, such as tea tree oil, almond oil, eucalyptus, and oil mixtures.

The effectiveness of the scent depends on how potent it is. For this reason, spraying concentrated scents or oils is more effective than planting trees or bushes. There are several ways you can take utilize citrus scents to drive away carpenter bees:

  • Buy Concentrated Oils – You can purchase concentrated citrus scents, oils, or extracts. Orange and lemon are the most popular citrus scents, and thus more commercially available than lime or grapefruit.
  • Buy or Squeeze Juice – For a cheaper citrus solution, you can buy juice or squeeze it yourself from the citrus fruit of your choice. Put it in a spray bottle and spritz over your wood in order to drive away carpenter bees.
  • Boil Citrus Peels – Instead of composting your orange or lemon peels, you can boil them in water to draw out the concentrate. Allow the mixture of water and citrus to cool and then pour or spray over wood, just like you would with juice.

Regarding oils, there is a wider variety that you can use, some of which you may already have in your home:

  • Tea Tree Oil – Just a tablespoon of tea tree oil mixed with 8 ounces of water creates a powerful spray that will drive away carpenter bees.
  • Eucalyptus Oil – Place 20 – 30 drops of eucalyptus in an ounce of water. Make sure to shake it well and then spray on the affected wood.
  • Almond Oil – The specific ingredient Benzaldehyde wards off carpenter bees. You can apply the concentrated oil directly on wood, no need for dilution.
  • Oil Mixture – Spraying a mixture of lavender oil, tea tree oil, jojoba oil, and citronella oil onto the affected area will help keep carpenter bees away.

Using citrus or oils to get rid of wood bees also has the added benefit of making your home smell great. And besides carpenter bees, these scents have been known to drive away other pests, as well.

Home Remedies for Getting Rid of Carpenter Bees

There are several home remedies for getting rid of carpenter bees, many of which can be made using common household products.

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For a particularly effective mixture, try the following:

  • Mix together one tablespoon of pure rubbing alcohol, two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, a few drops of lavender oil, and a few drops of tea tree oil.
  • Combine in a spray bottle and shake well.
  • Spray the solution around the affected area and, if possible, directly on the carpenter bees.

On their own, lavender oil and tea tree oil both repel carpenter bees. When combined with the other ingredients, it helps to drive away even the most determined wood bees.

If you have enough vinegar, you can also try soaking steel wire or another hardy, non-corrosive type of mesh in it. Then, use it to block off the bee gallery entrances and exits.

Besides apple cider vinegar, white vinegar can also help you protect the wood around your home, as discussed in the next section.

Here are several other remedies using common household items, although not all of them will leave carpenter bees unharmed:

  • Place a speaker or radio near the gallery and keep it playing on high; carpenter bees aren’t fond of noisy environments.
  • Using a vacuum nozzle, suck up all the carpenter bees; fit the nozzle inside the gallery to vacuum up as many adults as possible.
  • Smack the bees using a flyswatter, tennis racket, or similar instrument; this will force the bees to relocate out of a need for survival.
  • Mix boric acid with water at a 3:1 ratio and spray it inside the gallery entrances and around the affected wood.

Unlike bumblebees and other social insects, carpenter bees tend to be fairly solidary. Unless you have a lot of untreated, weathered, or decaying wood around your home, it’s unlikely you’ll see more than a pair or two of wood bees. Because of this, they’re more simple to treat than many other pollinators or pests. 

dead carpenter bee

Will Vinegar Keep Carpenter Bees Away?

Vinegar alone won’t keep carpenter bees away, but a mixture of white vinegar, garlic, and cooking oil is effective at driving away bees and other pests.

To use a vinegar mixture to keep carpenter bees away, follow these steps:

  • Fill a jar or other container with cooking oil.
  • Place 3 – 4 cloves of garlic (with the skin removed) into the oil.
  • Let the cloves and oil sit for 2 – 3 days.
  • Pour into a spray bottle and add white vinegar.
  • Shake well and then spray on the wood with carpenter bees.

Most, if not all, of these ingredients, can be found in your home. If you don’t have them, they’re available at any grocery store at affordable prices.

If you’re wondering how to get rid of wood bees, any of the natural or home remedies discussed so far will work. Some methods may be more effective than others; work through the list one recommendation at a time until you find the solution that works best for you.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Without Killing Them

The easiest way to get rid of carpenter bees without harming them is through preventative maintenance. Barring this, there are natural methods that will get rid of them that including spraying citrus scents, applying vinegar mixtures, and using oils such as eucalyptus.

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Preventative maintenance refers to creating a space that’s unattractive to carpenter bees. After all, you’ll never have to remove them if they don’t show up in the first place. This type of maintenance includes:

  • Promptly removing and replacing damaged wood, preferably with pressure-treated lumber (or chemically-treated lumber, if pressure-treated is not available)
  • Using wood preservatives before applying paints and stains; preservatives are applied directly to wood, making it indigestible to carpenter bees
  • Painting or staining wooden surfaces, which carpenter bees are not attracted to; painted wood typically is more effective than wood that is simply stained
  • Filling all holes and cracks with caulk or another sealant, which will prevent wood bees from drilling new tunnels or expanding existing ones

Carpenter bees are most likely to drill into unfinished, weathered, and decaying wood. This means that wood-heavy areas such as your porch, deck, and eaves are most vulnerable. Wood bees are also attracted to areas that receive morning or afternoon sun. Keep a close eye on any unpainted or unsealed wood in these areas.

We’ve discussed natural and home remedies for removing carpenter bees in the sections above. It’s best to deal with carpenter bees in the Spring, but preventative maintenance and natural remedies can be utilized year-round.

Do Carpenter Bees Sting or Bite You?

Male carpenter bees do not sting or bite, as they do not have a stinger. Female carpenter bees can sting but seldom do so without serious, prolonged provocation.

However, it’s not unusual for male carpenter bees to fly close to your face if you come into their territory. These bees are attracted to nearly anything that moves. While this can be alarming, it’s not a sign of impending danger.

The greatest threat carpenter bees pose is to any unfinished or weathered wood around your home. Their tunnels displace wood shavings, creating a mess around the nests, and the holes themselves can also be unsightly.

Serious structural damage is only a concern if the carpenter bees have been returning to the same nesting site for years. If left untreated or undeterred, they will return to your eaves, deck, etc. every year to raise their young.

This is why it’s important to get rid of carpenter bees as soon as you see signs of them and engage in preventative maintenance.

Is It Bad to Kill Carpenter Bees?

Because carpenter bees are valuable pollinators, it’s best to avoid killing them if possible. And since they aren’t true structural pests and aren’t aggressive toward people, deterrence is the preferred method of removal. There are a variety of ways to remove carpenter bees without harming them, such as using wood preservatives or natural remedies.

However, we understand that sometimes it is necessary to kill carpenter bees, especially in cases of a serious infestation. In such cases, chemical removal is the most effective.

Insecticides and other chemical pest controls can harm you if they come into contact with your skin or are ingested. Use gloves, safety glasses, and a mask or respirator prior to application. If possible, make sure the area of application is well ventilated.

Final Thoughts: How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Permanently

At best, carpenter bees are a nuisance that you don’t want flying around; at worst, they’re an annual visitor that’s causing structural damage to your home. Either way, you need to get rid of them. Both chemical and natural methods are available, both of which have their own benefits and drawbacks.

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