Mick Telkamp

Mick Telkamp

An easy-to-build trap will help control a growing carpenter bee population.

An unwelcome buzz is in the air. Spotted hovering along deck rails or under house eaves, an all too familiar pest has returned. Often mistaken for bumble bees, carpenter bees can be distinguished by its smooth and shiny-black abdomen. Although the males have no stingers, they aggressively patrol the area around their nests as the females busily prepare their favorite nesting spots. It’s those nests that make the carpenter bee a true pest for homeowners.

The handiwork of these illustrious borers becomes more and more apparent through late spring. Holes. Holes in houses, decks, patio furniture or chicken coops. Seeking out bare wood or even treated wood that has been softened though weathering, the preferred nesting location for the carpenter bee is deep inside that exposed wood, chewing holes roughly half an inch wide into the wood and producing tunnels three to four inches deep under the surface in which to lay her eggs.


Build a DIY Carpenter Bee Trap 9 photos

Cells are created within those tunnels, each containing eggs and a packet of gathered pollen on which hatching bees can feed. Offspring will stay in these cells until next spring when they emerge, ready to repeat the cycle.

Left to their own devices, populations will rise and the unsightly holes left in siding, decks or other wood structures will multiply exponentially as new bees emerge. If your garage is starting to resemble Swiss cheese, steps can be taken to put an end to a troublesome carpenter bee occupation.

A fresh coat of paint on exterior wood structures is a good deterrent from new construction. Barring that, repeated treatment of exposed wood using an appropriate insecticidal will help reduce an existing adult population and discourage further damage.

Existing nesting holes must be destroyed and sealed. Using a piece of flexible wire, thread the wire down the hole, piercing the egg cells of existing nest and then spray an insecticide into the hole. Once spraying is complete, plug the hole to prevent further occupation. Although male carpenter bees cannot sting, females may defend if provoked and care should be taken when approaching active nests.

Now to deal with those pesky adult bees in search of exposed wood in which to nest. I’ve known a few people who take great pleasure in wiling away the afternoon, tennis racquet in hand, taking them on one at a time. Nice work if you can get it, but when the bee population is high, other measures may be in order.

When a friend described a carpenter bee trap she had seen at a neighbor’s house, I was instantly intrigued. There are plenty of designs found online for building your own carpenter bee trap. Some are better than others, but most are based on the same principles. Appealing to carpenter bees, half inch holes are drilled into a wood box at an upward angle that prevents direct sunlight from shining in. A clear, tapered bottle is attached to a hole in the bottom of the box. Once the carpenter bees have entered the box, the hole at the bottom of the box is the obvious exit. Once trapped, the tapered shape of the bottle prevents them from escaping. Pretty darn clever and every bee trapped is one less hole chewed into the gazebo next year.

Naturally, we had to build one. Construction is simple and the bottle o’ doom is easy to swap out once it’s full. Check out the gallery above for step-by-step instructions on how to make your very own. Your picnic table will thank you.

19 Comments About this Article

  • Leanne Potts
    Yes, carpenter bees drill holes in painted and sealed wood. They eat brand new wood. Spare me the bee-hugging. I'm an organic gardener and I plan to kill as many carpenters bee as possible. I'll compost them, OK?

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Night Beast
    If you wanted us to drill out the top of the bottle cap using a 1/2" or 9/16" drill bit, then why were you using a 5/8" drill bit in the picture? Doh!

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Amy Sadler
    FYI Dandy7: From Wikipedia- Carpenter bees (the genus Xylocopa in the subfamily Xylocopinae) are large bees distributed worldwide. There are some 500 species of carpenter bee in 31 subgenera.[1] Their name comes from the fact that nearly all species build their nests in burrows in dead wood, bamboo, or structural timbers (except those in the subgenus Proxylocopa, which nest in the ground). Members of the related tribe Ceratinini are sometimes referred to as "small carpenter bees".

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Amy Sadler
    Continued from Wiki: In several species, the females live alongside their own daughters or sisters, creating a small social group. They use wood bits to form partitions between the cells in the nest. A few species bore holes in wood dwellings. Since the tunnels are near the surface, structural damage is generally minor or nonexistent. Carpenter bees can be important pollinators on open-faced flowers, even obligate pollinators on some, such as the Maypop (Passiflora incarnata), though many species are also known to "rob" nectar by slitting the sides of flowers with deep corollas.

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Amy Sadler
    FYI Leanne Potts: Carpenter bees do not eat wood. They discard the bits of wood, or re-use particles to build partitions between cells. The tunnel functions as a nursery for brood and storage for the pollen/nectar upon which the brood subsists. Pollinators.

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Amy Sadler
    NCSU: HOW TO RAISE AND MANAGE ORCHARD MASON BEES FOR THE HOME GARDEN The Orchard Mason Bee is the common name of a nonsocial native bee (Osmia lignaria ssp.) that pollinates our spring fruit trees, flowers and vegetables. This gentle, blue-black metallic bee does not live in hives. In nature it nests within hollow stems, woodpecker drillings and insect holes found in trees or wood. Sometimes there may be dense collections of individual nest holes, but these bees neither connect or share nests, nor help provision or protect each others' young. Also, they are active for only a short period of the year. They are not aggressive and one may observe them at very close range without fear of being stung, which makes them excellent for enhancing our yards and gardens. They add beauty, activity and pollination to our plantings. However, they do not produce honey.

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Betty Jean Hartsell
    The carpenter bees lay their larva in the wood and then the wood peckers go after the larva and they can really mess up the fascia boards and cedar siding. This can be costly.

    Posted 11 months ago

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  • HGTVPaul
    Hey Mick ... I saw my first carpenter bees this weekend. Ugh. Time to get busy with this trap. While replacing 4 fence posts on the backside of my privacy fence I saw the damage these rascals can do. Amazing.

    Posted 4 months ago

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  • Jacob Dawson
    this is what i am needing but i don't have the tools or the experience to make one. see at least 6 or 7 a day flying after birds or fighting each other. then i see what looks like saw dust coming down out of now where.

    Posted 2 months ago

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  • Toccadene Huffsteadler
    Jacob, you can buy them online. Do a search.

    Posted 1 month ago

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