How To Get Rid of Carpenter Bees: Prevention & Removal Methods

A carpenter bee with a shiny black abdomen on purple flowers of a butterfly bush.

Carpenter bees are important pollinators, but they can be a major pest for homeowners. They build their nests in wood and house siding.

They often reuse vacant nests, so they can be a constant problem.

How do you get rid of carpenter bees? To eliminate carpenter bees, paint or stain wood structures, seal holes, provide alternative nesting sites such as bee houses, and use natural deterrents like citrus essential oils. More aggressive, lethal approaches include traps, foam sprays, and pesticide dusts or sprays.

Carpenter bees can be incredibly destructive, but they do serve a purpose in the natural world.

In the following, you’ll learn how to protect your property without harming the bees and what options are available if you’re looking for a more aggressive approach.

Identifying Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are easily identifiable, although they’re commonly confused with mason bees or bumblebees.

A carpenter bee investigating an orange flower.

If you think you have carpenter bees, observe them and look for the following characteristics and behaviors:

  • Shiny black abdomen: Bumblebees have hairy black and yellow abdomens, and mason bees’ abdomens are brown. A carpenter bee’s abdomen is black and shiny rather than hairy.
  • Smaller than bumblebees: Bumblebees measure 0.75-1.5 inches, while carpenter bees only grow up to an inch.
  • Triangular wings: Carpenter bees’ wings are pointy and triangular.
  • Living alone: Carpenter bees are solitary bees, meaning individual female bees build their own nest. A male will guard it, and females will sometimes live in a “neighborhood,” but they never share a nest, and there isn’t a queen or worker bees.

Note that not all carpenter bees have black-and-yellow markings. They are also black, greenish metallic, and even blue varieties.

Removal Methods

Method Estimated

Cost

Natural Odor Free
Essential oils $10
Almond oil $7
Garlic  <$10
Sticky traps $10
Bee house $40
Bee trap $35
Aerosol foam (natural) $30
Aerosol foam (pesticide) $15
Insecticide dust $30
Insecticide spray $25

The Best Way to Eliminate Carpenter Bees

The best way to get rid of all the carpenter bees in your home is to use a natural aerosol foam.

We recommend using Donaldson Farms Carpenter Bee Killer Spray because it’s made with natural ingredients that won’t harm the environment.

Donaldson Farms Carpenter Bee Killer Spray, All Natural Foaming Spray, 16 oz

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To use this product:

  1. Untwist the nozzle to open it.
  2. Place the nozzle tip in the holes the carpenter bees use as a nest.
  3. Spray the foam until it fills the holes. It will expand to fill the area.
  4. Apply as often as needed, but bees should die soon after application.

Basic Guidelines

There are a few easy ways you can prevent carpenter bees.

Carpenter bees are considered pests, but they’re just as beneficial as bumblebees (find out why here), so it’s better to prevent them from living in your home so that you don’t have to kill them.

Understand Their Lifestyle

When you think of bees, you’re probably thinking of the black and yellow ones that buzz around a hive and work for a queen.

Those are eusocial bees, and they live very different lifestyles from carpenter bees.

Eusocial bees are socially organized, meaning that the queen lays eggs, and the worker bees (which are all females who can’t lay eggs) all have their special duties within the hives.

Carpenter bees, on the other hand, are solitary. Every female is capable of laying eggs, so there’s no need for the egg layer to be served by workers.

The female will go out and dig her hive in an untreated piece of wood or house siding, lay her eggs and raise her young, and then the young will leave and continue the cycle.

Eusocial bees will build hives, and solitary bees will seek out places to build their nest.

Generally speaking, you’ll notice a beehive more easily than you’ll notice a solitary bee’s nest.

Solitary bees are quite economical, too – they’ll reuse old nests or turn an existing hole into their home.

Treat the Wood

Carpenter bees will rarely make nests in wood that’s been treated or stained. If you have any untreated wood on your property, a fresh coat of paint or stain will deter bees from using it.

Seal Up Holes

When a female carpenter bee’s young become adults, they’ll leave the nest and go build their own.

Once the mother dies, the nest will be empty. Eventually, another bee might come and reuse the space.

Before that happens, seal up the holes left behind. Putty or caulk will work well and prevent bees from entering.

If there is a carpenter bee inside a hole you are about to fill, you can spray a quick blast of WD-40 into the hole to kill it quickly rather than allowing it to suffer as it dies a slow death trapped inside.

If there are any other holes caused by other insects or damage, fill those up too.

Compromise

Carpenter bees are great pollinators, and they might choose to live in your house if you have a garden nearby.

If that’s the case, offer an alternative option for them. It’s an environmentally and bee-friendly way to handle the situation.

These bees may be destructive, but they benefit the planet, only sting when provoked, and are struggling to thrive in our pesticide-heavy world.

The Rivajam Mason Refillable Bee House (reviewed below) is a bee house that can be mounted to a fence or wall.

Rivajam Mason Bee House Refillable Nesting Box | New 2020 Design Beekeeper Pro Edition | Includes 95 Cardboard Bee Nesting Tubes & 95 Fitted Paper Tube Liners | Solitary Native Bee Hotel Garden Gift

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Place it near a vegetable garden or flower bed, and you’ll have bees occupying the spaces soon enough.

You’ll find plenty more carpenter bee facts, prevention guidelines, relocation options, and elimination strategies on our main carpenter bee page.

Natural Solutions to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

There are several great natural ways to get rid of bees without harming them. If you don’t mind killing them, you can still choose to do so with a natural product.

Let’s take a look at some environmentally safe products that are also safe to use around kids and pets.

Indoor Infestations

You’ll rarely find bees inside your home. If you do, it’s likely because they chewed their way through wood looking for a way to get back outside or that they’re building nests in studs.

These remedies will work both indoors and outdoors and aren’t harmful, though they could potentially be skin irritants. 

Essential Oils

Essential oils are known to be great insect repellents, and it holds true for carpenter bees too.

Carpenter bees hate any kind of citrus scent, so you can use lemon, orange, and mandarin oils, or any other kind of citrus oil you have.

BeNatu Citrus Oils Set comes with three different scents, so you can mix them up in whichever way you please.

Essential oils should be diluted before you use them because they can cause skin irritation and stain wood.

Fill a spray bottle with water and add about 10 drops of oil. Mix well and spray over the area where the bees are living.

Be careful since bees sting when they feel threatened. Try to spray in the morning or evening when they’re less active.

Bees also hate the scent of almond oil. It has a sweet, soft scent, so if you have a sensitive nose, this might be a better option for you.

Almond oil is a carrier oil, so it doesn’t need to be diluted.

You can drop a few drops into holes, but you can make a spray with it too if you’d rather spray it over the area.

We recommend Pure Body Naturals Sweet Almond Oil because they don’t dilute the oil and it’s a budget-friendly price.

Garlic Powder

If there’s anything bees hate more than citrus essential oils, it’s garlic.

All forms of garlic will deter them, but powdered or minced forms will work the best because they’re more potent and easy to put right in their space.

Just sprinkle it wherever the bees are, and they’ll evacuate sooner rather than later.

If you don’t already have garlic powder on hand, Happy Belly Minced Garlic is a good option. It’s stronger than garlic powder so it might be a bit more effective.

If you want garlic powder that will last a long time for continual use, Happy Belly Granulated Garlic is a good bulk option.

After you’ve applied the powdered garlic, you can leave it there to continually attract bees.

You can vacuum it up once the bees have vacated the area.

Sticky Traps

Sticky traps are typically used outside, but if you have loose bees inside or they’re buzzing by your back door, sticky traps are super beneficial.

They attract bees with either colors or baits, and when the bees land on it, they’re unable to get away.

This isn’t recommended for those who would rather choose bee-friendly options, as the bees will be stuck until they die.

RESCUE! TrapStik is a great product because it doesn’t use any harmful chemicals to attract or kill the bees.

Since it doesn’t have any odor, it’s safe to use inside for those rogue bees.

If you choose to use it outdoors, it has a bird cage to keep birds from accidentally getting caught.

It’ll also trap a variety of other bugs, including wasps, so it’s a useful trap to keep handy.

Outdoor Infestations

Your yard is most likely where you’ll encounter bees, especially if you have a yard full of flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Carpenter bees can become an infestation in your siding, shed, deck, and even tree houses, especially if they’re living communally in a single area.

These solutions will help you cut down their population or get rid of them completely.

Bee House

Bee houses aren’t an elimination method; they might actually increase the bee population.

However, what they can do is encourage the bees to move from your property and into a bee house.

There are several bee houses to choose from, and you can even build them yourself.

Bee houses may appear to be ineffective since solitary bees are loners, but it’s more about the individual spaces than the location.

Many solitary bees will live in communities of separate nests, so they won’t be deterred from the houses as long as there are individual cells for them to lay eggs.

We recommend the Rivajam Mason Refillable Bee House because it’s simple, can house many bees at once, and it’s even refillable.

Bees will reuse old nests, but if you notice that bees aren’t returning to the house, you can remove the individual tubes and replace it with a new one.

Just be careful if you do this since bees don’t like to be disturbed. It’s better to wait until the nest is completely abandoned. 

Bee Trap

Bee traps work in similar ways to bee houses, but they’re intended to kill the bees instead of serve as a home.

The trap looks like a home, but once they get inside it’s difficult for them to find their way out. Instead, they get stuck in the jar at the bottom of the trap and they eventually die.

Mac’s Carpenter Bee Trap is durable so it can withstand all types of weather. You can hang it near where you usually see bees and they’ll find their way into it. 

The downside of bee traps is that they aren’t a 100% guarantee to catch all the bees.

If you notice bees aren’t attracted to it, try using a bee bait like Lakota Earthlink Naturals Carpenter Bee Trap Lure.

Add a few drops of it inside the jar or on the trap itself.

(See other options for luring carpenter bees to a specific location in our article “Best Carpenter Bee Bait.”)

Natural Aerosol Foam

We recommend natural aerosol foam as the best way to eliminate bees for the following reasons:

  • Safer to use than aerosol spray.
  • No harmful chemicals.
  • Allows you to reach tight spaces.
  • Kills almost instantly.

Donaldson Farms Carpenter Bee Killer Spray doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals yet it can kill all bees within a few minutes.

If your bee population has become a problem, whether it’s the amount of them or they’ve become aggressive, this foam will be able to bring you some relief. 

All you have to do is spray it in the bee nests, and it’ll kill eggs, larvae, and adults within a few minutes.

You may need to continually apply it every few days or weeks until you don’t see anymore bees.

This is certainly the best quick fix, but we recommend trying other removal methods before you try to kill them.

Pesticide Solutions to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

If natural solutions can’t convince the bees to leave, you may need to turn to pesticides or an exterminator.

Chemicals are harmful to people and pets, so be sure to follow the directions before you use them.

Aerosol Foam

BioAdvanced Termite and Carpenter Bee Killer is a pesticide version of aerosol foam.

It works in the same way as the natural version we recommend: spray it in their nests and give it a few minutes to kill them.

Since this is a pesticide, keep children and pets away from the area you’re spraying, and cover your eyes and skin since the chemicals are harmful.

Insecticide Dust

Insecticide dust is an efficient way to kill carpenter bees, although it’s a bit of a safety hazard if you’re working above your head.

To use this type of pesticide, put the nozzle in the bee nest and squeeze the bottle to release dust.

It might go everywhere, so you should protect yourself and make sure nobody is around you. 

Bayer Delta Dust is a super effective option. It kills carpenter bees rapidly and can also be used for just about any pest you might encounter.

If you frequently have bugs, this is a good one to keep handy.

Insecticide Spray

Insecticide spray is good to use when you need to continually treat your home. Control Solutions Cyzmic Insecticide is an efficient option.

You mix the liquid with water, add it to a sprayer, and then spray the areas where the bees are living.

If you only use what you need, this will be able to last you for a long time. The product can be reapplied every 21 days if necessary.

Safety Precautions When Using Pesticides

Pesticides are harmful when you breathe them in or come into contact with them.

Cover your face and skin when you use the products and read all labels thoroughly before application. 

Keep kids and pets out of the area while you apply pesticides. If you end up using a pesticide indoors, you may need to ventilate the area before entering again.

Keep in mind that bees are beneficial insects, even if they are drilling holes in your home. If possible, only use pesticides for uncontrollable infestations.

When to Call a Professional Exterminator

If you’re unsure of how to safely use pesticides or have tried and failed to control the infestation, turn to a professional exterminator.

Exterminators are knowledgeable about where the pests are coming from and how to stop them, so they’ll be able to put an end to the problem once and for all.

Another option you have for eliminating carpenter bees from your home is to contact a bee removal service.

Not all cities and states have one, and some may not remove carpenter bees. If you do have a local service, you can contact them and ask what services they provide.

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