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Do Carpenter Bee Sting? & How to Repair Carpenter Bee Damage?

April 28, 2018
Carpenter bee

Can carpenter bees sting? Yes. Do carpenter bees sting? Rarely. Yes, carpenter bees do get aggressive during mating season, but the cases of them causing any damage by stinging people are quite rare.

It is the male carpenter bee which you will notice hovering around your house in the spring season when they are looking for a receptive female. They might get aggressive sometimes, but males are not equipped with stringers, therefore they cannot sting. Their female counterparts, on the other hand, are equipped with stingers, doing justice to the question – Do carpenter bees sting?

Female carpenter bees are rarely aggressive unless provoked. Therefore, if you’ve ever heard the painful cries of a person stung by a carpenter bee or been stung by one yourself, you know better not to mess with them. They can be found in various parts of America. The species of carpenter bees encountered in Pennsylvania is Xylocopa Virginica and in California is Xylocopa Californica.

Carpenter bee

As mentioned above, carpenter bees look a lot like bumblebees. Bumblebees (genus Bombus) are petite, sociable creatures which can be found near flowering plants, playing amongst themselves. On the other hand, carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa) are solitary creatures which hover over the flowers to collect pollen and nectar to feed upon. Because they appear almost the same, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the two.

It is important that you keep an eye on carpenter bees around your house as they dwell in tunnels and they dig in the wooden structures outside your house. Carpenter bees are an early sign of damaged decks, porches, frames and other wooden structures outside your house. A few pointers which will help you distinguish between a bumblebee and a carpenter bee are:

  • Bumblebees usually nest in the ground, preferably, abandoned rodent nests. Whereas, carpenter bees are famous for digging tunnel-like nests in wooden structures.
  • Bumblebees are fuzzy all over, whereas, carpenter bees have a shiny and hairless dorsal or upper abdomen. Bumblebees are famous for having a yellow haze or can be striped with yellow and black, which certain species of carpenter bees can also possess.
  • Bumblebees are sociable creatures which can be found chasing and playing amongst each other near flowering plants, whereas, carpenter bees are solitary creatures, which prefer to work and dwell alone, not in colonies.

No matter what, both, bumblebees and carpenter bees are excellent pollinators and are a crucial part of our diverse ecosystem. One should not take dire steps to eliminate or kill them unless absolutely necessary.

How to treat carpenter bee sting?

Carpenter bee sting

Are carpenter bees dangerous? Yes, they can be very dangerous as their sting is very sharp and as dire as that of a bumblebee. Though the effect of a sting is local, it can prove deadly for people who are allergic to the venom. The bee discharges melittin into your body which causes pain, swelling and redness. Initially, the pain is unbearable, which becomes dull with time. The stung area remains sensitive even after a few days. It may also cause slight itching.

The bad news is that because the sting of carpenter bee does not get detached after one sting like that of a honeybee, it can sting you multiple times. So, it is better to maintain a distance from them.

Even then, if you manage to get yourself stung by a carpenter bee, here are a few steps you can follow to treat the sting in time:

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  • Using a cool pack over the stung region with a cloth in between the skin and the pack will help with the pain and itching.
  • Antihistamines can be consumed to cure swelling.
  • Painkillers help in reducing pain, significantly.
  • If you are allergic to bee venom or wasps, the consequences can be a lot worse and immediate medical attention is advised in such cases.

For all the consolation we can provide if your house is infested by carpenter bees, you can only be stung by one bee once at a time because they are solitary creatures.

Carpenter bee feed

Are carpenter bees beneficial to the environment?

Do carpenter bees sting? Yes. But like any other species of bees which hover in our surroundings, carpenter bees are also a crucial part of this huge biosphere. Carpenter bees help in pollination by hopping from plant to plant and flower to flower, in order to collect nectar and pollens to feed upon. They prepare their food with pollens as well, therefore, they are a crucial agent for cross-pollination as well.

What are the Indications of Carpenter Bee Damage?

Carpenter Bees

Fan-shaped marks or stains around the hole openings

Scraping sounds from inside the wood

Fresh sawdust around the hole

The presence of a yellowish combination of bee feces and pollen near the entrance hole

Their troublesome flight activities. Male carpenter bees often make most flights in a single day as they are very protective of their territory  

If the bee infestation is limited to one or two tunnels, then it is no reason to worry about. Even though they dig deep into the wood, but they don’t systematically destroy the wood’s structure like the carpenter ants or termites.

In case, if the infestation is going on for years and is extensive, then it can cause certain damages and problems like;

If the carpenter bee infestation is extensive, this means that there would be lots of tunnels bored inside the wood. It can weaken the wood over time causing structural damage.

The infestation can cause water damage especially when the tunnels are in the sidings. Water and moisture can enter the tunnels and can result in rotting the wood. This is the most problematic as sidings protect the structure.

Another problem with carpenter bee infestation is that they cause wood satins. Their feces can leave an irremovable stain on the woods.

Insect-eating birds like woodpeckers can be drawn towards your house to the enticing sounds of larvae and bee nesting. This can lead to further damage.  

Can they cause damage to your house?

Carpenter bee

Nowadays, homeowners concern is not limited to do carpenter bees sting, they are also worried about the damage they can cause to the wood in their house. Yes, if bigger carpenter bees choose to nest in your house’s wood, they can leave it hollow and hollow wood, when comes in contact with moisture, rots easily.

A relief for homeowners, in this case, is that a female carpenter bee can only lay about 10 eggs in her lifetime. Therefore, there is little to worry about a big network of burrows or colonies forming in your home. Then again, if a group of carpenter bees decide to nest inside the wood at your house, you might want to fill in the holes before the damage becomes irreversible.

Bees never meant to be pests and there is little that you are doing to attract them. Due to the reason that carpenter bees prefer nesting in woods make them pests. They like to dig out their nests in soft, bare, and unpainted woods like the porch ceilings, window trim, siding, and fascia boards. They also bore into swing sets, fence posts, outdoor furniture, and decks. Carpenter bees find softer woods like cypress, redwood, cedar, pine, etc more attractive and they refrain from nesting in painted and pressurized woods.

The hole can go inward for about 1-1 ½ inch and then the brood cells can go further 6 or more inches deeper. The tunnels are branched into smaller colonies so that multiple bees can nest.

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Home From Damage?

Don’t lose hope if carpenter bees have managed to infest your home because, with some work, you can get rid of them. Steps you can take to disinfest your house from carpenter bees are:

  • Locate the nest. To get rid of the burrows, you need to find them first. They dig nearly perfect round burrows which are a ½ inch wide into the wood which is wider than 2 inches. They often eliminate the waste before stepping into the burrow, therefore, if you can see the traces of yellow waste on the edges of a hole, it is definitely a nest.
  • Apply the insecticidal dust on burrow openings. Insecticidal dust is a dry powder-like contact insecticide which is used to treat the bugs and insects. When pests come in contact with the insecticidal dust, they die. It can be applied in cracks and crevices and other difficult to reach spaces which are infested by insects.
  • You can use a duster to puff the openings and sides of the hole with insecticidal dust. Once the bees come in contact with the dust, they will die. The best time to apply the dust is when the bees are least active, suitably at night. Then again, you should be able to see the openings, therefore, you can either use flashlight taped with the red plastic sheet or do your job in the daytime after spraying pyrethrum spray or its kind to make the bees unconscious.
  • Precaution! Wear proper protective gear including mask and gloves to protect yourself from chemical fall-out and stings when applying the insecticidal dust. Trash the clothing or equipment which got infected by chemical properly, as it might be harmful to you and others.
  • Fill in the holes. If you do not want to go through the same trouble again the following year, then use good quality wood putty or dowels to fill in the holes. Once covered, varnish or paint the wood to avoid any further infiltrations

Another question which might be arising in your head now is when exactly you should treat the burrows. Well, you can begin as soon as you see first signs of infestation, which is generally during the spring. Then, you can treat the burrows again in mid-summer to deal with young bees which might have left untreated. Follow the regimen again in early fall to treat the bees which might have been still hibernating. Fill the holes during fall as mentioned above.

It is always better to fill in the tunnels and get rid of carpenter bees as soon as you spot one in your vicinity. Though one bee might not cause a lot of damage, cumulative damage can be significant. Digging a burrow is a lot of work for a bee, therefore, they are always on the lookout for an already dug nest. This can lead to hollowing of wood.

Dealing with Carpenter Bees:

Carpenter Bees

If the carpenter bees have already started infesting your home, then you should;

Fill the abandoned holes with a steel wool, a dowel and wood glue, a chunk of aluminum foil, or even some putty. Paint the wood structure once you have filled the holes.

Treat the active holes with a targeted dose of insecticide. Products like insect sprays, carbaryl, boric acid, or pyrethrum will do the trick. Prefer treating the wood structures with insecticides during nighttime when the bees are resting. Look for any angry females, their sting can cause an enormous amount of pain. You can also apply the insecticide when the bees are in the hibernation mode. The next day, you can fill the active holes as well.

As carpenter bees do not consume wood so, treating the wood structures with wood treatments will not do anything well.

You cannot completely eliminate or prevent carpenter bees from your home. But you can always stay alert and monitor their activities. This way, you can keep the damage to the minimum.     

Note: it is always recommended treating carpenter bees during the spring as it is when they are observed after overwinter. You can again try it in the mid-summer if you think the previous treatment wasn’t enough. And the third time would be during the fall. In the fall, you may contact the overwintering bees and it is the best opportunity to get rid of them. Also, in the fall, plug the holes with the mentioned products. Moreover, you have to be extra cautious while using pesticides, keep your kids and pets from any form of contact with it.

Now, if the question that, are carpenter bees dangerous crosses your head, the answer is yes. Well, mildly. If you take proper precautions by painting your house wood with the right material, filling in the holes as and when you spot them, and not trying to handle or agitate these insects, you are good to go.

So, the next time you spot a carpenter bee in your vicinity, keep your calm!

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