Everyone worries about their home being infested by termites, and the kind of extensive and often expensive damage they can cause to the structural wood of a home. Carpenter bees, however, don’t generally cross people’s minds when they consider insect infestations that can cause serious damage to their home. A recent nationwide survey of pest management professionals revealed that carpenter bees were actually the third most commonly controlled wood-damaging insect pests on residential properties during the 2016 year. With the exception of eastern subterranean termites, carpenter bees were controlled more frequently than all termite pest species within and around US homes during 2016. In fact, an infestation of carpenter bees can frequently lead to much more costly and extensive damage of a home’s wood components than people realize, particularly if it goes unnoticed for a long period of time and is infested by multiple generations that have gone unnoticed by homeowners. Since they build their nests within wood, this can happen easily since it helps hide them, and without a visible hive for people to connect to any bees they might see around their home, they are prone to ignoring their presence and think nothing of it.
Carpenter bees look like your generic picture of a large black and yellow bee, although they have a hairless abdomen. People mostly see them during the spring months, and they tend to hover around wooden decks, under the eaves of houses, near porch rails, and deck furniture. They do not consume wood, only excavating tunnels to be used as nesting sites. They do this with their incredibly strong teeth, leaving behind a ½ inch round hole and a bit of sawdust as evidence. Exposed wood such as that making up wooden decks are their main targets. While one specific nesting tunnel may not cause too much damage to the wood, with larval galleries generally being 6 to 7 inches long, but can be as long as a foot. When more than one bee uses the initial entrance hole, branching off of the main tunnel to excavate their individual larval gallery. If this continues for years unnoticed, those tunnels can grow pretty extensive, extending several feet into the wood and decimating the inside of what may appear to be healthy, whole wood. When those new larvae develop into adults and emerge in late summer, they will often begin cleaning out their tunnel to use as an overwintering site.
Have you ever found structural wood from your home that had been infested and damaged by carpenter bees?