Carpenter bees are stocky bees that are about the same size as bumble bees. The two can easily be told apart, however, because a carpenter bee's abdomen looks smooth and shiny, whereas a bumble bee's belly looks hairy. Carpenter bees are true bees, not wasps or hornets.
Like bees in general, carpenter bees are beneficial insects because they're industrious pollinators. In fact, they're better pollinators of some crops than honey bees are. Carpenter bees are also among the least likely bees to sting. The males lack stingers altogether, and the females rarely sting. Their energetic flight habits can be intimidating (especially that of the males, who aggressively guard their territories), but your chances of actually being stung by a carpenter bee are very, very slight.
In fact, the only thing not to like about carpenter bees is the female bees' annoying habit of drilling holes and tunnels in wood to lay their eggs. They drill perfectly-round holes in wood from coniferous trees like pine, fir, and spruce, and then burrow along the grain to create galleries in which they lay their eggs.
In nature, they do their nesting in dead tree limbs. The holes they drill allow microbes to get into the wood and help decompose the trees, returning the nutrients to the soil. So it's a good thing. But when they drill holes in houses, barns, sheds, fences, wood furniture, and playground equipment, not so much.
The problem is that carpenter bees don't see a whole lot of difference between one piece of dead wood and another; so they do drill holes in our houses, barns, sheds, fences, wood furniture, and playground equipment, as well as any other piece of suitable wood to which they take a liking. Over time, they can cause great damage, and so they have to be controlled.
In addition to drilling holes, carpenter bees also deface homes with ugly stains made up of wax, frass (sawdust), and fecal material. These stains can be very difficult to remove or paint over because most paints and coatings won't adhere well to the wax. The holes also allow water and microbes into the wood, which contribute to rot. In some cases, this water can leak into other parts of the structure and cause even more serious damage.
Just in case that wasn't bad enough, the same carpenter bee who drilled a nest, as well as her daughters, may return to the same place the following year to expand and re-use the nest; so untreated carpenter ant problems usually become worse every year. Also, although they're not social bees, multiple females tend to build nests in the same general areas; so it's not unusual for the same piece of wood to have multiple nests.
As for the males, male carpenter bees don't drill holes. What they do while all the drilling is going on is buzz around the vicinity trying to scare off predators and competing males. They're very aggressive and put quite a bit of macho into this behavior. But because they don't have stingers, it's all just a show. The worst thing a male carpenter bee can do to you is head butt you -- which is something that they actually do, by the way. But beyond that, they're harmless. They can be annoying, but they can't hurt you.
Carpenter bee removal and damage repair is very challenging, specialized work that requires great skill and specialized equipment that many other carpenter bee exterminators don't have. The Athens office of Rid-A-Critter provides carpenter bee control services throughout Athens-Clarke County and the surrounding communities. We do more carpenter bee jobs every year than any other company in the region.
Rid-A-Critter's approach to carpenter bee control is much more thorough than that performed by many other companies. In addition to fixing the visible holes, we also seal or screen the bees out to reduce the chances of their drilling again from the unpainted sides of wooden parts of the house. This is one of the invisible differences in the way we do things that nonetheless sets us apart from our competitors.
Please give us a call for an on-site consultation if carpenter bees have started drilling away at your property. We're the region's carpenter bee removal experts, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Carpenter Bee Control Gallery
Here are some pictures of carpenter bee work we've done in and around the Athens, Georgia area.