Carpenter Bees can be a nuisance, even for those who have top-quality Cedar or Redwood swing sets. These bees are common across the Northeast and love these types of woods as much as you do! Thankfully, homeowners can take some steps to control and prevent Carpenter Bees from damaging or destroying their investment.
Carpenter Bee Tunnels
While they do not pose a significant threat, treating Carpenter Bee tunnels is necessary. Tunnels are typically formed in the same way every year. The female Carpenter Bee will drill down about 1” into the wood before turning to run her tunnel either left or right, following the grain of the wood. Her tunnel will go about 6” or so. Within this tunnel she will set up sections for her eggs, separating them with nectar and pollen for her young to feed on.
Carpenter Bee holes may not affect the structural integrity of the swing set but leaving them untreated may weaken the structure over time. It is important to take action as soon as you notice the first signs of activity, preferably during the spring or summer when the majority of tunnels are formed.
Carpenter Bee Nesting Prevention
If you notice the signs of Carpenter Bees, you can address the issue yourself or call an exterminator. Prevention is not foolproof, but these different methods are effective at deterring bees from nesting in your swing set.
One effective way to prevent Carpenter Bees from nesting in your wooden structures is to paint or stain the wood. Carpenter Bees are attracted to unfinished wood because it’s easy for them to bore into. If you paint or stain the wood, it will create a protective barrier that will make it harder for the bees to dig in.
You can also try applying a natural repellent, such as citrus oil or tea tree oil, to the wood. These oils have a strong scent that Carpenter Bees find unpleasant, which can deter them from nesting.
Finally, you can try installing traps around your property to catch Carpenter Bees before they can nest in your structures. These traps are designed to lure the bees in and trap them, so they can’t cause damage to your property. You can buy pre-made traps or make your own using a plastic bottle, some wire, and a sweet bait, such as sugar water or soda. Place the traps around your property, preferably near areas where you’ve noticed Carpenter Bee activity, to catch them before they can cause damage.
What if Carpenter Bees are Already in My Swing Set?
If there are already Carpenter Bees in your swing set, you can follow this tactic to prevent further activity. Get a stiff wire that you can insert into the hole/tunnel, making sure it is long enough to reach all the chambers of pollen, nectar, and eggs. (Don’t worry, the wire is just to give the pesticide a better chance of reaching the back of the tunnel when you spray.) Once you’ve cleared the hole/tunnels with the wire, you’ll need to spray the pesticide (any bee or hornet spray) into the hole and at/around the entrance. The following day, plug the hole with a durable wood putty so no new Carpenter Bees will enter.
Call An Exterminator
If you continue to notice Carpenter Bee activity, your best solution is to call an exterminator. An exterminator will most likely come to your home and treat Carpenter Bee holes and entrances with a pesticide to kill the bees. Some companies also offer to fill the holes/tunnels; if your exterminator does not offer this service, make sure to do it yourself, even if just with wood putty. As mentioned above, bees will use unfilled holes/tunnels upon their return, possibly even branching off the original tunnel to dig more.
*If you don’t notice holes in your swing set until late summer (end of August or in September), you can probably just fill the hole in with putty, as there likely aren’t any bees still active in the tunnels around that time of the year.
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