Although they look like bumblebees, the carpenter bee is an insect that can do great damage to your home.
They are called carpenter bees because they bore into the wood material of decks, fascia boards, wood overhangs, eaves, and even walls.
Although they will often carve their way into trees, your home may provide a far more suitable environment for them to bore into and nest.
Worse, woodpeckers love to eat the larvae of carpenter bees, so the holes the bees made will only grow wider.
Painting the wood will deter the carpenter bees for sure. However, it’s important to remember that nothing will be 100% effective.
This means painting, staining, or varnishing the wood will not stop them permanently from coming.
To stop them for good, you will need to resolve the problem permanently by trying various other methods in addition to painting the infested wood.
What you can do about the carpenter bees, and how to keep them away will however start with knowing where they like to nest.
So let’s dive in…
Where do Carpenter Bees Nest?
Carpenter bees are common throughout the United States
Usually, they nest inside wood by boring holes and laying eggs about one to two inches below the surface.
The holes are about a half-inch wide, although if a woodpecker finds the hole it may grow considerably in size as they pull the larvae out.
Once the holes have been made and the young have grown up, the adults may still reside in the wood over the winter months as they go dormant.
If there is wood around, then it becomes a target for carpenter bees.
Although they will go after painted or stained surfaces, they tend to prefer untreated wood.
In fact, the odor and color of stain or paint may actually attract the carpenter bees to your home.
Although they have natural carpenter bee repellent qualities as well.
Will Painting Wood Stop Carpenter Bees?
Yes, but you will have to paint the wood to stop them permanently.
The reason why repellent paint, stain, or varnish may work to keep the wood-boring insects (like carpenter ants, bees, wood wasps, and moths) away is not too clear.
But one theory is that the odor from the chemicals used in such products may dissuade the carpenter bees from boring holes into the wood.
But in reality, no one is really sure.
It is true that paint, stain, and varnish will reduce the moisture that can penetrate the wood, although whether that has anything to do with repelling carpenter bees is not known.
However, you can treat the wood with insecticide which will deter or kill the bees and their larvae.
This is recommended before you paint the wood to ensure that there is no bees present.
In addition, you should use a good bee repellent paint additive that will help to keep the bees away.
Finding the right one can however make all the difference.
Best Paint Additives to Prevent Carpenter Bees
Keep in mind that while there are paint additives that will deter the bees, the effect will not last forever.
You will have to re-apply the additive every year for maximum effect.
What follows are the best additives you can purchase to help keep the carpenter bees away.
1- Bug Juice
This popular insecticide is effective against carpenter bees and most other insects as well.
You can spray it on for a temporary effect but mixing it with repellent stains or paints will help it to last longer.
What should be noted about bug juice is that it takes about two to three hours for it to kill a typical carpenter bee because they must come in direct contact and the bug juice must stick to their legs for it to work.
2- BeeGone & Outlast Q8 Log Oil
This is a pyrethrum-based insecticide that works on contact.
If you see carpenter bees around, you should apply them to surfaces immediately.
Bee Gone paint additive will not last long, but long enough to destroy the immediate infestation.
To mix it with paint or stain, use Outlast Q8 Log Oil instead which will not only get rid of the carpenter bees, it will do the following.
- Preserves the oil in the log
- Destroys termites, powder post beetles, and other insects
- Keeps mold from sticking to surfaces
One downside of Outlast Q8 Log Oil is that because the carpenter bees do not consume the wood, they are less likely to be killed by it.
But it still acts as a deterrent to them boring into the wood in the first place.
3- NBS-30 Paint & Stain Additive
This is a strong product that may work up to 24 months in keeping the carpenter bees away.
You can simply mix it with water and spray it on surfaces if you need a fast solution, although it will wear off after one to two months.
When you stain or paint the wood, be sure to mix in NBS-30 properly by using a stir stick and make it part of the last application for maximum effect.
Oil-based products are the best and you can mix one pint for every five gallons of finish.
A few important things you need to remember when using these additives are:
- The NBS 30 additive is usually meant for a building’s exterior
- When applying put on nitrile gloves and a face mask for protection
- You will need to apply at least two coats of the additive-treated paint for good results
- You can also add the additive to water and apply it like paint to an already painted surface
- Always keep the additive and paint away from children – as it can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems if breathed
7 Additional Ways to Keep Carpenter Bees Away
The best way to keep the carpenter bees from damaging the wood that is part of your home starts by keeping them away from your property when possible.
Discouragement is the best form of prevention since once the bees start to bore into the wood, you will have issues.
What follows are seven ways you can prevent this from happening.
There are some types of wood that carpenter bees have a difficult time penetrating.
This means that you should use hardwood to build structures such as decks, rails, porches, siding, and other areas of your home if you decide to use wood.
You may even be able to cover softer wood with hardwood depending on the structure. Some of the best hardwoods include the following.
Keep in mind that hardwood can be expensive, so you may want to limit its use or find suitable alternative materials that work just as well.
A proven method that works, although you will need to be careful if you have children or pets around.
Just spray the insecticide into the wood (preferably over the borer holes if you have any) and re-apply every month or two.
Be sure to use the insecticide paint additive that is best suited to keep away the carpenter bees along with other mosquitoes like roaches.
Plus, you may find that what you use does not work so well, so you may have to try other brands.
For me, BioAdvanced 700420A Termite & Carpenter Bee Killer worked very well. It’s available in an 18 oz foam spray bottle on Amazon and is super easy to use.
Bayer Advanced Carpenter Bee Killer and TERRO Carpenter Ant (Bee) Killer Aerosol Spray are also good choices for killing carpenter bees in the holes and for getting rid of her eggs.
If you want you can use a universal product like WD-40 water-displacing spray.
Most of you will be having this at home or in your garage for sure.
3- Natural Oils
Two of the most effective natural oils are citrus and tea tree.
You can create citrus oil by grinding up peels of lemon, oranges, or limes and boiling them in water for a few minutes.
Put that into a bottle and spray the holes that the bees have made.
Tea tree oil can be mixed with water for the same effect. Just a few drops will do.
Almond oil works just as well. If you spray the area frequently enough, the bees should get the message.
4- Seal Up Existing Holes
Just like people, carpenter bees like to do less work to complete a project.
This means that you should seal up any existing holes, cracks, or other imperfections in the wood that is outside your home.
For filling the carpenter bee holes you can try something like spray foam which is effective and fast.
By keeping a smooth surface, you help to deter some carpenter bees because they know they will have to work harder to bore into the wood.
This method supposedly works, although it is pretty drastic.
Place a boom box outside your home facing where the carpenter bees usually congregate and play some loud rock or heavy metal.
The noise will help to drive away bees, as they cannot stand the sound.
Of course, it may drive your neighbors to make a visit along with the police. So, use this method only if you can crank the noise up to eleven.
6- Steel Wool
What if you already see the holes made by carpenter bees? Stuff some steel wool into the holes.
Steel wool provides a strong surface that carpenter bees cannot penetrate.
When combined with covering the rest of your home with stain, paint, or vinyl siding, you have put up a strong barrier against carpenter bees.
7- Vinyl Siding
This simple, relatively inexpensive method not only provides a strong barrier to stopping carpenter bees, but you also do not have to paint your home every few years when you use the right siding.
Vinyl is a relatively cheap material that is quite strong and resistant to carpenter bees.
You can even find vinyl that looks like wood but is instead a hard plastic that is weather-resistant along with stopping carpenter bees in their tracks.
Do DIY Carpenter Bee Traps Work?
Carpenter bee traps are effective and can considerably help you in reducing the number of bees in your area.
You can either buy a readymade bee trap at a store like Amazon or can make a DIY bee trap at home using wood and a mason jar.
If you want you can use a plastic bottle instead of a mason jar.
Although not necessary, if you want you can put some baits in your carpenter bee trap.
These can be like sweet bait which is a mixture of sugar and water. Alternatively, you can try beer, jam, soda, or plant oils such as mint with water.
To make the baits poisonous laundry soap with water can also be added.
You can place this carpenter bee trap near the corners of roofs, around your yard, or near wooden siding where the bees come around most of the time.
To keep your wooden patio doors, benches, chairs, and tables on your porch protected you can also place the trap near them.
Make sure you do not place these traps in areas that are dark, cool, and unprotected from the rain.
When to Call Carpenter Bee Removal and Its Cost?
Although a carpenter bee trap can work for most, the bee removal process can be hard as well as laborious if you have a full-on infestation of carpenter bees.
You will then need to call the professionals to effectively deal with the situation.
Most professional exterminators that specialize in insects have the chemicals to get rid of carpenter bees.
The good news is that, unlike honeybees, carpenter bees are rather solitary and rarely gather in groups of more than ten at one time.
This means that professional exterminators can get rid of them rather quickly if the nests are easily accessible.
Depending on where you live the service may cost from $50 up to $400 or even more.
You will need to shop around first, get recommendations, and an estimate before you make a commitment.
However, keep in mind that in many cases removing the bees on a more permanent basis can take a considerable amount of time and money.
This will depend on how frequently the bees come back.
The Bottom Line
It is generally best to combine a visit from a professional exterminator with protecting the wood after the bees are gone.
By doing so, you can keep them away for a long time at less cost.
This means identifying the areas where the bees tend to nest and covering them with the right anti carpenter bee paint, siding, or hardwood.
During the winter months, seal up any holes or cracks with steel wool.
And in the early spring spray natural oils on the surfaces, every month just to dissuade any determined carpenter bee.
It takes some work, but if you want to rid your home of carpenter bees it can be done. Just keep in mind that will take more than one spray to do the job.
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.