Project: Protect Your Cabin from Carpenter Bees and Wood Peckers

Project: Protect Your Cabin from Carpenter Bees and Wood Peckers

Carpenter Bees will seriously damage a log cabin. They drill tunnels and lay eggs. Which is bad enough. But then woodpeckers come to eat the larvae and make huge holes to get at them. Woodpeckers can actually hear bee larvae. The damaged wood attracts other pests. You cannot ignore Carpenter Bees.

The first spring in the cabin, I noticed I had some large bumble bees around the porch.

Carpenter Bee * Photo by Josve05a from Wikimedia Commons
Carpenter Bee*

They look like this. Bumblebees have hairs on their abdomen. Carpenter bees don’t.

They are large, black and yellow. They were just hovering around.

These are Carpenter Bees and they are evil.

They will eat your log cabin. They will eat any wood on any house, but if you live in a log cabin they are a real threat.

They have very strong jaws and they dig 1/2” tunnels through your logs, or any other wood.

A new Carpenter Bee Tunnel and one that has been sealed from last year.
A new Carpenter Bee Tunnel and one that has been sealed from last year.

If you see a little pile of sawdust, look up. It came from a hole.

They will attack any wood, but they are more likely to attack wood that is unpainted. If it is stained it has some protection. They really go for the unstained wood.

My log cabin is made out of red cedar. Red cedar is insect resistant. But carpenter bees aren’t eating the wood. They are just digging through it to make a nest. So they don’t care a single bit that it is red cedar. They really aren’t even chewing the wood. They “vibrate their bodies as they rasp their mandibles against hard wood.” Wikipedia

The Life of a Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bees spend the winter inside an old nest tunnel. The males emerge around April or May. It’s still March and I’m already seeing them. (Males have a white spot. Females don’t.)

The males pick their nest spot and they protect it. They feed on nectar, like a bumble bee. You may see them hovering over the ground.

In just a couple of weeks, they start making tunnels. Each tunnel goes about 1/2” in, then follows the grain of the wood to a 6” to 12” gallery.  So, they aren’t straight, they turn a corner. A single entrance hole can have a number of galleries off it. Like a cave complex in my logs.

They collect pollen in the gallery, then the female deposits an egg and seals it off with a chewed wood plug to make a cell. She continues to do this until the gallery is full of six or seven little rooms full of bee eggs and pollen food. Then, the mother bee dies.

A few days later, the evil new bees hatch and start to grow up, eating the pollen. They stay in the log for 5 to 7 weeks.

In late autumn, new carpenter bees come out of the holes. They hang around, eating pollen and nectar, then climb back into the tunnel to sleep through the winter. They wake up in the spring to do it again.

I was told they don’t sting, but that is not true. Males can’t sting, but females can. It’s not likely, but they can.

Preventing Carpenter Bees

Basically, you can’t prevent carpenter bees. But you have to fight them.

Insecticide only works for a couple of weeks, if.
The bees don’t eat the wood. They just dig through it. Insecticide just doesn’t kill them.
They are tunneling the whole house. You have to spray the whole house. Every couple of weeks. Which we have done.

Carpenter Bees Recommended Treatment

This is the job that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend.

Kill the eggs in the tunnel.

You can’t just poke a stick in the hole to kill the eggs, because the holes turn a corner.

First, you have to treat the tunnel entrance hole with insecticide.

This is the recommended list from the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual.

If you are going to do it yourself, be careful and follow all of the instructions.

Next, seal the tunnel with aluminum foil or something until you can caulk it. This doesn’t keep the baby bees from getting out. They can just tunnel out through the wood if you don’t poison them. This is to deter the adult bees from living in the hole through the winter. The fewer adult bees that over winter, the fewer new bees in the spring.

Other Options

We have tried all of these options. If anybody has a better idea, let us know.

Stain Additive

There are stain additives that are supposed to repel bees for years. We think it kinda works. But not by itself.

Tennis Racket

We whack them out of the air with a tennis racket. This is as effective as anything else. Every less bee is a lot less more bees.

Project: Carpenter Bees and Wood Peckers - Experienced Trained Carpenter Bee Dog
Jack, Experienced Trained Carpenter Bee Dog

Bee Dogs

Whenever our dogs get a bee, we praise them. They spend their time on the alert, then leap and dive to bite the bees. We had to put chicken wire around the porch, because the little one sailed off the edge.

Project: Carpenter Bees and Wood Peckers - Carpenter Bee Dog Trainee and Woodpecker Assassin
Geordie, Carpenter Bee Dog Trainee and Woodpecker Assassin

Every time the woodpeckers would come, I would run out of the house waving the tennis racket and turn on the hose to spray the bird. Which flew to a close by tree to wait me out. Then, one day, Geordie leaped in the air and got the woodpecker. I could not believe it. Just like he gets the bees.

Project: Carpenter Bees and Wood Peckers - Enthusiast Carpenter Bee Dog
Gigi, Enthusiast Carpenter Bee Dog
Carpenter Bee Traps help control Carpenter Bees
Carpenter Bee Traps help control Carpenter Bees

Bee Traps

Last year we tried bee traps.
The Carpenter Bee Trap is made out of wood. The ones we got have two different rings, so you can attach a canning jar or a water bottle.

The hole looks to the carpenter bee like an entrance to one of their own tunnels. Since the bees will use their tunnels over, they fly in to check it out. But the holes are drilled at an angle to not let light in. When the bee tries to leave, he can only see the hole into the bottle. Game over.

Leave the dead bees in the bottle. They release a pheromone that is supposed to attract more bees. Dead bees are attractive to other bees. There is more than one definition to attractive.

Carpenter Bee Trap with Ball Canning Jar - It really works!
Carpenter Bee Trap with Ball Canning Jar – It really works!

You are supposed to put the bee traps on the corners and peak and wherever it is warm. They should be no more than 15 feet apart. We put up a dozen of them. I added the turquoise ball canning jars. Doesn’t that look prettier? They still seem to work just as well.

You still have to treat the other holes.

* Photos from Wikimedia Commons.
Pileated Woodpecker Joshlaymon
Carpenter bee Josve05a