Carpenter Bee Holes: 4 Things to Do When You Spot One

Peter Chambers

Jan 2, 2023

a be digging into a railing making carpenter bee holes

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Carpenter bees aren’t as dangerous as other outdoor pests, like wasps. In fact, the males don’t even have stingers, and the females are only aggressive when protecting their eggs.  However, they’re a threat to any wooden structures on your property, which is why you need to be vigilant for any signs of their presence. Once you do spot carpenter bee holes or the creatures themselves, you need to act quickly.  

1. Verify They’re Carpenter Bee Holes

Before you move forward with any treatments, you need to ensure you’re dealing with carpenter bee holes and not an opening made from another pest — you may need different procedures to rid yourselves of other insects. 

Your first sign will probably be a small hole or pile of sawdust. Female carpenter bees burrow into the wood to lay their eggs. While the ladies work, the males ward off predators, but they’re all buzz and no bite since they lack a stinger.  

If you still aren’t certain, you should inspect the hole a little closer, as long as you feel safe to do so. Look around the rim of the hole or just inside for a yellow substance. After laying her eggs, a carpenter bee uses several layers of pollen to keep her babies safe and provide food for them once they hatch. You might be able to see some of the pollen from outside the carpenter bee hole. 

2. Get Rid of Your Infestation

Once you’ve determined you are, in fact, dealing with carpenter bee holes, your next step is to get the bees to move on. You have a few ways of accomplishing this —  using non-toxic ingredients they dislike to get them to leave, using a non-lethal trap to move them to a new home or spraying them with insecticide for carpenter bees.  

Keep in mind carpenter bees are pollinators and very important to the survival of our ecosystem — anything you can do to remove these insects without killing them is usually worthwhile. If your infestation has moved past a point where you feel comfortable using a non-lethal method, it may be better to call in a pest control operation — they know how to safely and responsibly remove the carpenter bee problem. 

3. Fill All the Carpenter Bee Holes

Now that you’ve removed the problem, it’s time to deal with the carpenter bee holes. Plugging them up will prevent new bees from using the same holes next season. Also, leaving things open exposes the core of your wood to the weather, causing further damage. 

If you’re short on time, you can plug the whole with wood putty or a premade plug from the store. These methods are reasonably effective at keeping new bees from using the same holes in the future. However, any larvae deep inside the tunnel you missed earlier can still burrow their way back out, reopening the plugged hole. 

A much better option is to combine a surface plug or putty with an internal plug. The most common method is to insert small bits of dowel and caulk into the hole. Once you fill the entire cavity, you can place the premade plug or wood putty at the mouth. 

4. Discourage Future Carpenter Bee Holes

The process of removing these pests and blocking up carpenter bee holes isn’t too intensive, but it’s a nuisance. A superior alternative is to discourage them from burrowing into your wood in the first place. 

Covering your wood surfaces with an oil-based paint disguises the wood grain and smell enough that carpenter bees will generally pass you by. You should also ensure you’re catching and plugging all cracks, crevices and old carpenter bee holes, so you don’t make their job easier. 

One final preventive measure is to place carpenter bee homes. These wooden homes offer many tunnels for carpenter bees to lay their eggs in without destroying your property. You can protect your wooden decks and outbuildings while keeping these fabulous pollinators around. 

You Should Take Carpenter Bee Holes Seriously

While carpenter bees aren’t a danger to your personal or family’s well-being, they can cause significant damage to wooden structures around your home. The holes they bore remain open even after they leave, and if left alone, they’ll slowly rot from exposure to the elements. It’s essential to identify and handle these intruders and their holes as soon as possible. 

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