Do You Have a Lot of Bee Activity at Your Wood Siding?
If you are seeing big bees buzzing around your wood siding, tiny piles of wood dust, and almost perfect one-half inch holes drilled into your wood siding, you have carpenter bees.
In this article we review the methods to protect wood siding from carpenter bees:
- Manage the situation as soon as you see bees around your wood siding
- Divert the carpenter bees to a secondary location
- Set up barkless, untreated, distressed posts or wood bundles away from your wood structure
- Spray citrus or almond oil on wood siding to deter the bees
- Hang wind chimes near your siding, vibration/noise repels carpenter bees
- Use bee traps and Diatomaceous earth puffed into the holes to manage large, established populations
- Plug, caulk and refinish the empty carpenter bee holes and tunnels
- Clear coat, stain, paint or apply a coat of almond oil to finish the wood siding
As important pollinators of many flowering plants, carpenter bees are beneficial contributors to the 15% of U.S. agriculture pollinated naturally. They’re also considered pesky because of their potential to damage wood.
The global decline of bee populations has many people opposed to the idea of destroying the bees to control the damage they cause. Understanding carpenter bee behavior and considering natural preventative strategies has gained popularity.
What Are Carpenter Bees?
There are different species of carpenter bees but the most common is as big or bigger than a bumble bee and often mistaken for one. Carpenter bees have a shiny black abdomen, whereas the bumble bee is fuzzy all over.
Carpenter bee – its common name – comes from the perfect, round holes they drill in the wood.
Carpenter bees are solitary insects and don’t live in hives or colonies. They sleep in the tunnels they create, as well as overwinter in them or nearby abandoned tunnels.
Carpenter bees are not aggressive. The male will dive-bomb a human too close to his territory, but he is all bluster as he doesn’t have a stinger. The female can sting but is only inclined to do so if aggravated.
Are The Carpenter Bees Eating My Wood Siding?
The carpenter bees aren’t eating your wood siding.
In late spring the female carpenter bees are busy excavating tunnels in the wood for nesting chambers. They drill that perfectly round hole you see on the outside then make a 90-degree turn, going with the grain of the wood, and tunnel about 6 inches.
Working back toward the entrance, the females deposit one egg per chamber, usually about 6 eggs. The young adults emerge in about 7 weeks.
How Much Damage Are the Bees Doing to My Wood?
If you see a bee or two they aren’t doing much damage. However, carpenter bees live and overwinter in the same area as their nesting sites, so next spring you will have double or triple the amount of females.
Some will excavate new nesting tunnels and some will clean and enlarge old tunnels; each female laying six or eight eggs. Every spring your numbers are increasing exponentially.
You see where I’m going with this. In just a few years you will have dozens of carpenter bees drilling into your wood.
Tunnels can be six to ten feet long from continual use year after year. If boards have many of these very long tunnels in them the structural quality of the boards can be compromised.
If you’re in a treed area, you probably have woodpeckers. Woodpeckers love bee larvae and can sense the vibration of the larvae in your wood. They will destroy the wood to get to the larvae.
The holes and tunnels made by the bees and the larger holes created by the woodpeckers allow moisture and water to seep into the inner structure of your wood. This can be more damaging than the tunnels.
How Can I Stop Carpenter Bees From Damaging My Wood Siding?
Start managing the situation as soon as you see bees around your wood siding. Initially, it could be just a few bees and diverting them to a secondary location is going to be so much easier than waiting til next spring, or the following spring, when you’ll have a dozen or more bees to contend with.
Will painting wood stop carpenter bees?
Carpenter bees prefer bare, untreated wood, but painted or stained wood is still susceptible to attack. Providing barkless, untreated, distressed posts, planks or wood bundles, set up away from your wood structure, will give the bees the option they prefer.
Do this in conjunction with spraying a citrus oil on your siding. Bees hate the smell of citrus (as do many insects and animals). Citrus oils are good wood conditioners, natural repellants, biodegradeable, and non-toxic. You may need to re-apply throughout the active bee season.
Almond oil also repels carpenter bees and is a nice natural oil finish for wood surfaces.
What other methods stop carpenter bees from damaging wood siding?
Carpenter bees are repelled by vibration and noise. Hang wind chimes, you’ll scare off plenty of carpenter bees – that should be music to your ears!
Early intervention will make your wood siding unpleasant for the carpenter bees to consider nesting in and they’ll be looking elsewhere.
If you’re dealing with a large, well established population of bees that you haven’t been able to manage with other methods, bee traps are available and very effective.
Diatomaceous earth (D.E.) can be puffed into the holes. It only kills the bees in the tunnels, not the entire population or other beneficial insects. Take necessary precautions using D.E., you don’t want to breathe it. The holes can be plugged, then finished, to deter more bees from drilling in the same spots.
The most effective pesticides are powdered. They are puffed or dusted directly into the holes. Indiscriminate pesticide applications are unlikely to provide satisfactory results and pose a threat to other beneficial insects, flower and vegetable gardens, as well as being toxic to humans and pets.
There are many product-driven solutions available. Some work better than others and some work better in conjunction with other methods.
How Can I Repair Damage Caused By Carpenter Bees?
Deterring the bee activity at your wood siding early can significantly limit the damage. If they haven’t tunnelled and deposited eggs, you can plug and refinish the holes.
If you have an established bee population, timing is everything! You don’t want to plug up holes with larvae and bees in the nest. They will simply drill their way out, creating more holes.
Plan your repairs in the fall when younger bees are out of the tunnels during daylight hours and older bees haven’t returned to hibernate. To make sure the tunnels are empty spray the holes with citrus oil.
You can caulk the holes; use wood dowls in the holes; they make carpenter bee corks and repair kits.
Finishing over the plugged holes is important. Clear coat, stain or paint to deter the bees from coming back to the holes again.
If you don’t want stain or paint on your siding, a good coat of almond oil should work. Coat it again in the spring before the bees begin mating and searching for nesting sites.
If you’ve decided to replace some boards, consider moving those old boards containing nesting tunnels somewhere on your property, away from your wood structure, to establish an alternative bee habitat that many of the bees will return to for overwintering and nesting next spring.
You can’t eliminate carpenter bees from your property. Being aware of bee activity, using methods to deter the bees, and minimizing damage to your wood siding is the goal.
Be Vigilant, Wood Lovers.
Have you found a method that works best for you? We’d love to hear about your experience. Write to us using the form on our contact page.