Our War with the Carpenter Bees

By Cindy & Jim Smith

After waging war with carpenter bees nesting in the eaves of our log cabin, we finally have them under control. Carpenter bees look like a shiny sleek version of a bumblebee. Only carpenter bees are overly protective of their environment and will dive toward any intruder who dares to sit on the deck on a nice spring day! It didn’t matter that we owned the log cabin and the deck leading off of it, these carpenter bees viewed us as intruders and tried to chase all of us away.

We learned from one of our neighbors that these critters were not bumblebees but rather were male carpenter bees. I learned from him that, although they are intimidating, the male carpenter bees do not sting. And the females typically stay at the nest and seldom attack. We figured since they don’t sting, we could try to live with them. This was before we found out that they were capable of destructively chewing holes into the eaves of our log home.

We co-existed with the carpenter bees for another year before we discovered small piles of sawdust on the deck under the eaves. We started looking more closely at the bees in the eaves and noticed that there were tiny holes on the underside of the eaves. And we further realized that the bees were coming and going through those tiny holes that they had apparently bored into the wood. That is when we decided that we should learn more about these destructive creatures. We learned that they prefer stained wood rather than painted. That meant that they were leaving our neighbors painted houses alone and focused on our stained home. And to make matters worse, we learned that soft wood like pine is carpenter bees favorite. Since we built our log cabin from a do-it-yourself kit made out of pine, we knew the cabin had a lot of appeal to the carpenter bees.

While we studied up on carpenter bees, we researched ways to evict the unwanted houseguests as well. A few methods seemed safer than others so we figured we’d try those first. Since our two labs love to be on the deck, we didn’t want to risk any poisons that they might get into from checking out the dead bees.

One suggestion we found, was to use a can of WD-40 to get rid of them. The plastic nozzle on WD-40 seemed like a handy way to get the spray into the holes. I had a helpful neighbor willing to climb the ladder and spray the holes while I held the ladder and offered my observations safely from below. I saw one carpenter bee and then another stumble out of their holes and onto the deck. They were obviously victims of being over-lubricated so we sprayed the rest of the holes. No more bees came out so we assumed we had wiped out the last of the colony. We celebrated the success and for the rest of the year, other than a few bees, it looked like the problem was solved.

As winter turned into spring, a brand new batch of carpenter bees showed up. Since we heard that using wood dowels and wood putty was a good solution, we decided to give that a try. It was exciting beyond words to be on a ladder with carpenter bees dive-bombing you the whole time you are trying to cram wood dowels into their handiwork. For a few weeks after that, the carpenter bees would make their feelings clear by harassing us anytime we tried to use the deck or go out the front door. Then we called a truce for a while when they went back to boring out new holes in the eaves to replace the ones I had blocked.

After we went through seasons of trying other options, we decided it was time to bring in the professionals. We hired a local exterminator and he used a mild localized poison that got rid of the carpenter bees while not destroying the other friendlier natural surroundings.

For the first time since the invasion began, we were able to use our deck without being harassed by big bees. The exterminator recommended we bring him back the following spring for a repeat application, which we did. Now we have learned our lesson – carpenter bees are best left to the pros. Thanks to them, we can now enjoy our deck!

Cindy & Jim Smith are enjoying their cabin now that the carpenter bees are no longer buzzing around them. They have a web site for anyone interested in some articles and tips about building a DIY log cabin. Stop by the website to say hello!


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