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Carpenter bee infestation guide for buildings: this article describes carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp. - about 500 species) and how to inspect a building for carpenter bee damage. We explain and illustrate how to identify carpenter bees - what carpenter bees look like, why and where they attack buildings, and how to cure a carpenter bee infestation using pesticides or other methods. We describe building details that increase the risk of carpenter bee infestation - which tells you where to look for damage as well as how to prevent carpenter bee infestations in buildings without reliance on pesticides.
We also describe how to distinguish carpenter bees from other insect or other types of building damage and how to tell a carpenter bee from other insects. We include examples of building damage caused by carpenter bees. And we provide citations to authoritative sources for more carpenter bee identification & control information.
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Carpenter Bees Guide: what they look like, how to find carpenter bee damage, how to get rid of carpenter bees, how to prevent carpenter bee infestations
Often the first evidence you may see of carpenter bee activity will be a perfectly round hole about 5/16" in diameter in the edge of exterior trim boards at a soffit or fascia (red arrow, photo above right). But two very good clues of carpenter bee activity at a building are only slightly more subtle: carpenter bee tracking marks on building siding or walls just below wood trim (photo below left) or a neat little pile of fresh sawdust beneath a hole where a carpenter be is busy tearing away at a wooden trim board (below right).
Look for tracking, sawdust, exit holes, or the insects themselves. But look first for these splashes on building siding that may indicate carpenter bee activity. Two more examples of these bee marks are shown just below.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Those 5/16" to 1/2" perfectly round holes carpenter bees cut into (usually) the edges of wood trim or other exposed lumber are made by the female carpenter bee to prepare a nest, typically six to ten inches deep into the wood.
When carpenter bee damage holes appear in the face of a trim board more often they are oblate, as shown in photo at left.
In these nicely drilled openings into building wood trim or even deck or porch framing, the female carpenter bee deposits eggs that hatch into larvae and develop into young adult carpenter bees, feeding initially on pollen stored in the nest by the parents.
Because carpenter bees like to return to the same nest each year, the length or depth of these nests can become much larger, extending many feet along the interior of wood trim or other boards on building exteriors.
Watch out: Because the holes made by carpenter bees (for purposes of nesting and laying eggs) are so perfectly round and because often you see only those openings they can be mistaken for drill marks. Don't confuse insect damage or holes such as those made by carpenter bees or powder post beetles with mechanically made drill holes in wood boards, beams, or other structural components on or in buildings.
At Drill Marks we show drill marks in wood caused by an amateur pest treatment attempt. While to an experienced eye, holes in wood caused by insects are easily distinguished from those caused by humans using a drill or hammer and nail, on occasion someone is fooled. Below in our photographs of carpenter bee damage to two different buildings we illustrate two cases of holes that are caused by insects, not mechanical events on buildings: powder post beetle holes in wood, and carpenter bee holes in wood.
Both of these examples of carpenter bee damage are old - weather and decay have softened the edges of carpenter bee openings and exits in the wood.
Unlike more serious wood destroying insects such as CARPENTER ANTS or TERMITES, carpenter bees are solitary insects, so using the term "infestation" to describe carpenter bee activity on a building can be a bit over-stated. Nonetheless, as our deck photograph above shows, left unattended these bees can eventually cause extensive damage to a building or to a wooden deck or more often its wood trim. Unlike carpenter ants and termites, carpenter bees do not invade deeply into a structure - their activity is usually found on external trim and exposed wood structural members such as the deck above. But you can also see that this deck has been severely damaged.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Carpenter Bees: identification, damage they cause, how to get rid of them.
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