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Friend or Foe?

Are carpenter bees helpful or harmful?


a carpenter bee boring into wood

You hear a lot of information about the decreasing population of bees in the United States and the importance of pollinators. Currently, there are eight species of bees that are officially listed as endangered. Seven of these are varieties of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees, and the eighth is the rusty patched bumblebee. (More information at Fair Planet) There are many factors impacting the populations of these important pollinators, including parasites, climate changes, disease, and habitat loss. At Virginia Pest Pro, we are anxious to protect your family and home without causing harm to the environment.


So what does that mean for carpenter bees? What should you do if you find them in your yard?



 

What Do Carpenter Bees Look Like?


Carpenter bees can be mistaken for bumblebees, due to their similar appearance. They are black and yellow (or sometimes, but rarely, black and orange). While bumblebees have a fuzzy appearance, carpenter bees have a hairless, shiny abdomen. They grow to be between 1/2 and 1 inch long.


These bees will generally mate in the spring, laying eggs in the early summer. Many new adult bees will begin to emerge through the late summer, primarily August in Virginia. Carpenter bees will hibernate over the winter, surviving in the tunnels they make in wooden structures. The bees will leave a pheromone in the wood, meaning that more bees will return to the structure year after year.


What Are The Pros and Cons of Carpenter Bees?


Pros


Obviously, the biggest pro to carpenter bees is that they are pollinators. They are especially helpful to agricultural crops, using "buzz pollination" techniques, meaning they vibrate fast enough to sonicate the pollen from the flower.


Another positive thing about carpenter bees is that usually do not sting. In fact, male carpenter bees do not have the ability to sting and females will generally only sting when greatly provoked. They will, however, hover frighteningly close (especially if you are swatting or waving them away) or "dive bomb" your head and body. This attack tactic can be terrifying, especially to young children or to those who mistake these for aggressively stinging insects.


Cons


Carpenter bees cause significant damage to the structure of homes (or playhouses, treehouses, etc). In fact, they can actually make your home structurally unsound, causing danger to you and your family.


Carpenter bees don't eat wood, but they bore into it to make tunnels in which to lay eggs. These tunnels cause the wood to weaken, often warping both the bored boards and those around them as they begin to sag and put pressure on other points in the structure. This can cause sinking of floors and ceilings, warping or bulging of walls, and cracking or otherwise damaging the structural integrity of your home.


Unfortunately, the presence of the larvae in these tunnels is also strongly attractive to other harmful predators, such as woodpeckers, which may lead to further damage to your home.


How Do I Protect My Family From These Damaging Insects?

Because of the danger to your home (and the potential fear and maybe even a sting or two to your family), it's important that these bees are discouraged from taking up residence in your home.


As with most insect populations, prevention is key. Treat your exterior wood with thick coats of stain or paint, which makes the wood less desirable to carpenter bees.


If you find carpenter bees near your home, act immediately. They will not leave on their own. There are carpenter bee traps available in many retail locations, but they are not generally effective and could cause delay in curbing the issues before costly damage has occurred.


Professional pest control is the most effective safeguard for your home. The insecticide will prevent bee populations from taking up residence in your home or remove the current bee population from your structure, while having minimal impact on transient pollinators in your yard. Meaning, we can protect your home and important pollinators too.


For some more good information on the safe use of pesticide with pollinators, you can read this great article by the NAPPC (the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign).


Call Virginia Pest Pro today! We're always ready to help!


For more information on insects in Virginia, visit our Pest Library

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