Carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) can be destructive and bothersome when they decide to take up residence in the wooden components of your home, outbuildings, and in tree stumps and trunks in your yard.
Luckily, repelling and eradicating them are both easy matters, and you don’t have to use deadly poisons to do it. In fact, plain kitchen vinegar mixed with water can act as both a repellent and a carpenter-bee-specific insecticide.
For example, a simple 50/50 mix of white vinegar, apple cider vinegar (ACV), and water makes a solution to spray into carpenter bee holes.
There are also several variations of this recipe aimed at specific outcomes. In this article, we offer several vinegar-based carpenter bee mist and bait recipes along with tips for successful application. Read on to learn more.
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Why Is Vinegar Effective Against Carpenter Bees?
Carpenter bees find pollen and nectar in flowers by scent. The harsh, acrid smell of the acetic acid in vinegar negatively impacts their sense of smell.
For this reason, they avoid it. Its harsh smell and sharp taste can suffocate them in high concentration.
You can use lower-concentration mixtures of vinegar and water to create repellents to keep carpenter bees away from areas where they might make nests.
Higher concentrations sprayed directly into existing nests will kill the larvae and any adult bees who might be home at the time of application. Naturally, the smell of this strong vinegar concoction will repel any returning bees.
The downside of straight vinegar and water mixtures is that they don’t have much-staying power and must be refreshed frequently. However, you can add staying power to your concoctions by adding essential oils and isopropyl alcohol.
Even though the smell of vinegar is repellent to carpenter bees, it can be an effective component in bait for carpenter bee traps.
Mixed in the right ratio with honey, the bees can be lured into a trap by the strong scent of honey where the presence of the vinegar kills them.
How To Build A Better Carpenter Bee Trap?
The presenter of this video provides clear, simple instructions for building two types of carpenter bee traps.
Super Simple Carpenter Bee Trap
As you can see, these traps can be used with no bait at all because the bees will be fooled by what appear to be established carpenter bee nests.
Once they go inside and into the jar or bottle below, they will not be able to get back out again. Doing it this way leaves you with the option of carting the bees off to some other location and releasing them if you don’t want to kill them.
If you do want to kill them, whip up a bait mixture consisting of three equal parts water, honey, and ACV. When the bees enter the jar or bottle to get to the honey, they will be knocked out by the vinegar smell and fall into the bait and drown.
Be sure to use ACV as it has a sweeter smell and won’t prevent the bees from entering the trap.
Note that if you want to use baited plastic bottles, you will not drill air holes in the bottom as the presenter does in the video.
Mix Up An Effective Carpenter Bee Repellent Spray
A 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water on its own will keep bees away from potential nest sites and out of their existing nests.
Make an even stronger three-part mixture by combining equal parts of water, isopropyl alcohol, and white vinegar.
Boost the repellent power even more by mixing in strong-smelling essential oils, such as:
Oil of Peppermint
Tea Tree Oil
Use any of these or other similar strong-smelling essential oils. Ten drops of total essential oil per ounce of vinegar and water mixture should suffice.
Even after the smell of the vinegar has dissipated, the smell of the essential oils should have some residual bee-repelling properties.
Spray this mixture around and into carpenter bee holes to repel them and kill the larvae in the holes. Be sure to do this at night when the greatest number of bees will be present.
Even though carpenter bees don’t tend to be aggressive, it’s better not to spray their homes in broad daylight when they are coming and going. They might get riled, and they can sting.
TIP: Wear protective clothing and eye protection when spraying for carpenter bees. This will protect you against stings and against accidental contact with the spray, which can be irritating.
Keep Carpenter Bees From Returning
You may need to apply the vinegar mixture daily for a week or so for the greatest effectiveness. Then, when you no longer see carpenter bee activity, you should fill in the entrance holes to the nests.
There are several ways to do this, including but not limited to the following:
Dip a wooden dowel in carpenters’ glue and push it into the hole as far as possible.
Cut it off flush with the surface of the wood. Sand it and paint over it.
Fill the hole with putty, silicone, or some other sealant material. Once it’s dry, paint over it.
Remove and replace the damaged wood if the carpenter bee damage is extensive. Be sure to keep it painted in the future.
Even after carpenter bee activity has ceased, keep your traps up during the spring and summer months.
Place them in fair proximity to the areas bees have frequented so that the bees will see them and be attracted to them.
Good locations include:
Under the eaves of your house.
At the corners of your porch or roof deck.
Under the overhang of the barn, shed, or garage roofs.
Spray potentially attractive wood surfaces with your vinegar mixture every few days, starting in early spring and through the summer.
Keep wood surfaces well-treated with paint, sealant, or stain. Generally speaking, paint is best at deterring carpenter bee activity.
Vinegar Is An Effective Carpenter Bee Deterrent
Poisons can be used against carpenter bees, but there is no reason to use them. Vinegar mixtures provide a safe and effective way to repel and kill carpenter bees.
Just remember that diligence is also an important ingredient in carpenter bee control.
Even if you used the most toxic poisons, you would need to reapply them frequently, use them in conjunction with traps and take good care of the wooden components of your home and outbuildings to prevent carpenter bee damage.