What you need to know about Carpenter Bees in New Jersey

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018 by Bill Cowley

carpenter bee hole and frass

Bees don’t set out to become pests. In fact, they do a lot of good by pollinating plants. They only become a problem for property managers when they select your property for nesting, and otherwise “good” bees turn into “bad” bees. 

If disturbed or threatened, bees can deliver painful stings and some bees are territorial and aggressive. If stings weren’t enough, carpenter bees pose an additional problem for property managers: property damage. Carpenter bees are so-named for a reason. They are expert wood drillers. The females bore into wood to make their nests. The aftermath of a carpenter bee infestation can look like a deranged carpenter took a drill to your property just for the fun of it. Carpenter bees have a preference for bare soft woods that they can easily bore into. If the wood happens to be extra soft from water damage, all the better. Carpenter bees are far less interested in wood that is painted, stained, or and pressure-treated and vinyl siding holds no appeal at all.

While a carpenter bee infestation doesn’t come close to the damage that can be caused by termites, these insects are no slouches. They not only bore unsightly holes, but their openings contribute to water seepage and wood rot. As an added “bonus,” carpenter bee larvae is a delicacy for woodpeckers and these pecking birds can cause even more damage.

Carpenter Bees Are “Bore-ing” Insects

Carpenter bee holes, like the tips of icebergs, are deceiving. The holes they make may not appear to be very large on the surface.  However, they can extend deep into the wood. The female forms tiny cells within the tunnels where she deposits her eggs and stores pollen. These cells provide a safe haven for the bee larvae to hatch and grow. Once they have fully matured, the bees will emerge from the tunnel and begin making tunnels of their own or expand their current home. These nests are also used as a shelter for overwintering adults. Once the carpenter bees choose your building as their home, they usually settle in for the long haul. Carpenter bees often return to the same location year-after-year where they further excavate their existing tunnels and build new ones. 

Signs That Carpenter Bees Have Chosen Your Property

The most obvious sign of carpenter bees is coming across the bees themselves. These guys are easy to spot. They resemble, and are often confused with, bumblebees. The major difference in appearance is that the back end of the carpenter bee’s body (the abdomen) is shiny black and mostly hairless while bumble bees are fuzzy with black and yellow bands across their bodies. Also, carpenter bees don’t venture far from their nests. If you see bees hovering around your building and no plants are present, this is a good sign that carpenter bees are nesting there or they are “casing the joint” and looking for a place to nest. Also, carpenter bees are solitary bees while bumblebees are social insects that live in colonies. If you see individual bees flying around instead of a group of bees, they may well be carpenter bees.

If you have an active carpenter bee infestation on your property, there’s a good chance you, your staff, or residents will have a run-in with them. Fortunately, these bees are not nearly as aggressive as yellow jackets and other wasps. The males, who assume the role as guardians of the nests, don’t even have stingers, so while they may act threatening, it’s all show. The females can sting, but they are busy building nests and tending to their eggs and larvae. So, unless you are really going out of your way to disturb them, it is unusual for the females to sting.

Other signs of a carpenter bee infestation: 

  • Holes in wood surfaces. Carpenter bees drill perfectly round holes that are about 1/2” in diameter.
  • Piles of coarse sawdust (“frass”) underneath the holes.
  • Yellowish stains on structure surfaces near the nests from their excretions.
  • Sounds of burrowing within the wood.

Carpenter bee season is already in full swing. We’ve already been getting a lot of calls for these infestations. It’s important to treat carpenter bee infestations early before they make themselves at home and start punching holes in your buildings. This spring and summer promises to be chock full of all sorts of insects looking to bother your residents, damage your properties, and detract you from your other responsibilities. Cowleys will keep these insects at bay and look for ways to help you prevent these infestations from occurring in the first place. We look forward to being your partner in keeping your properties in tip-top pest-free shape as we approach our busy season for insects.





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