Updated: Mar 4, 2021
By Cathy Smith
Carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa) are our largest native bee, along with bumble bee queens. There are several species in North America, but the most common in the North East is Xylocopa virginica. You've no doubt seen them hovering near your house - they look like large bumble bees but with a shiny, hairless abdomen. And all carpenter bees have one thing in common - they are expert pollinators. They do it by buzz pollination - using their buzzing vibrations to remove and collect pollen from flowers, thereby fertilizing them.
While their tunnel-excavating ways can be a bit of a nuisance for homeowners, they do far more good than harm. Given their role as power pollinators and that fact that they are pretty docile (the males don't sting and the females only do if provoked), it is alarming to see carpenter bee killing products pop up in local stores. Instead of "eliminating" carpenter bees, as these products promise, let's just try to gently redirect them.
"As forests are cut down and manicured, many of these dead trees are the first to be removed. This leaves carpenter bees with very few options for nesting sites. It’s not difficult to see why our houses, decks, and barns look inviting to such a creature," according to Spriggly's Beescaping.
Fortunately there are some steps you can take to deter carpenter bees from nesting in your wooden structures. The first is to provide them with some natural alternatives - leaving some wood piles and dead trees on your property, for example. Other measures include:
- paint or stain your wooden structures. Carpenter bees like their wood untreated.
- try citrus oil as a repellant.
- plug old bee holes.
- create some noise with wind chimes or other devices that are pleasant to humans but enough to make a carpenter bee look elsewhere.
And maybe the next time you see a product designed to eliminate carpenter bees, suggest to the store owner they eliminate the product instead!
For more details, read How to Stop Carpenter Bees Naturally
And for more on buzz pollination, check out Buzz pollination: studying bee vibrations on flowers