New England’s Flying Pests – Carpenter Ants & Carpenter Bees

Termites get all the glory but here in New England we have other bug’s to consider as well. Carpenter ants and carpenter bees are tops on this list. These wood boring bugs don’t care if the wood is inside or outside the house. To them it’s just a place to nest. And they do serve a much needed purpose in the environment because they nest in dead trees and quicken the decay of the wood. Insects like vacation homes as much as you and your guests do. Because they are vacant much of the time, the bugs have free run of the place. And they certainly party it up when you are not around.

Carpenter Ants

They can be mistaken for termites in the early spring when they swarm in vast numbers. You can tell the difference because the front wings are longer than the back wings and they have a narrow waist. Swarmers are commonly observed from March to June. It is really hard to miss these big bugs. They are useful creatures to clean up the woods of dead trees but they can also bring a house down. They keep their homes very clean so it is easy to see where they have chewed out the wood by the small piles of sawdust everywhere.

A few years ago, I went into an infested listing after the owners had sprayed. The floor was literally covered with dead bodies all the while their friends were back flying about. It was like some scene from the latest gross horror flick. This job was too big for the homeowner so we brought in the specialists who located a large nest underneath the back door.


There are pre-packaged bait traps that are easy to use. Check your local home improvement store or garden center. Wherever you see an ant trail is where you want to place them. You can also follow the ants that are leaving the house to discover where the major nest might be. The easiest and quickest way to handle this problem is to bring in the pest experts. The right exterminator can get the job done quickly and painlessly for you.

Carpenter Bees 

I recently saw my first infestation of carpenter bees. They look like a regular bumblebee but they have a predominantly shiny black abdomen. Also they will readily dive bomb you but not try to sting you. In fact the males don’t have stingers and the females are busy doing their own thing and will not try to sting you unless you get too close to the nest. A female carpenter bee can tunnel at a rate of 1 inch per week with the average length being 4-6 inches of chewed out wood. A gallery being used by several bees can easily reach lengths of 10 feet!

Back to my bee story, these bees were having a great time mating in the warm spring weather. All the fascia boards around the roof were riddled with round holes and the bees were flying in and out. The holes are about the size of your finger. On the ground was further evidence of sawdust. The damage they caused was certainly extensive and all the trim boards had to be replaced.


To start with deter carpenter bees by painting bare or weathered wood. Regular home maintenance should include painting the exterior. If you find them becoming a problem please cover up before you start towards the nest. The males can’t sting you because they have no stinger but the female sure will! After using insecticides for the bees, plug the entrances with caulk or putty and then paint over them. But if the wood is riddled the best solution is to remove it and replace it with new pressure treated lumber that you have painted. Bees are most active in the spring when they are mating, and then the new bees come out briefly in August or September before going back into the nest to pass the winter. The best time to have them treated is in the early spring. I strongly suggest bringing in the pest experts to take care of this problem. They use a dust to kill the bees and it’s very effective.

Routine maintenance for any home should be regular inspection, repair and painting of any damaged wood. Schedule a time in the spring to come up to inspect your vacation home when the bugs are out and about doing their mating dance. Another piece of good advice is to get a pest inspection before you by that vacation or second home by a professional in the business. Most home inspectors will look around for pests but you really want an exterminator who is an expert let you know what is going on with that home you are only going to visit occasionally.

(c) Aldrich & Associates 2013


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