They love any sort of soft, unpainted wood such as deck rails, outside buildings, soffits, and other areas they can bore into and build a new colony.
The most telltale sign of their activity are little piles of sawdust. Usually if you look upwards over the sawdust piles you will spot a small, perfectly round hole which is the new hive entrance.
Another clue you can often observe, especially on light surfaces is light yellowish brown spotting on vertical surfaces like walls and support posts. This a a mixture of pollen and bee feces and another sign of bee activity.
Bumble Bee Carpenter Bee
Once you've spotted them and identified them as Carpenter Bees, it's fairly simple to get rid of them assuming you can reach their holes.
They're mostly safe to get close to; only the female has a stinger. The males will buzz around and make lots of noise but they can't hurt you.
Here's a few solutions including some 'green' ones.
- Simply fill in the entry hole to the next with wood putty. Oddly the bees won't try to dig their way out but simple remain in the nest until they die. Sand and paint over the puttied surface to make sure a new batch doesn't try to return to the same area.
- Wait until later in the evening when they're all in the nest and take a vacuum (shop vac type) cleaner out, tap around the entry hole to agitate them and just suck them into the vacuum tank.
- Most any Raid type of insecticide will kill them too; just stick the nozzle or opening into their hole and fill it full. Be sure and follow product directions and wash your hands thoroughly after using.
Once you've gotten rid of them you should paint any untreated wood surfaces, especially soft woods like Pine, to discourage their return. If they liked a spot once chances are good other Carpenter Bees will like it again if left unpainted.
Here's a little Flip video I shot of our carport after I sprayed and a wandering bee returned home to find an empty next.
In case you're in the Knoxville area and need a house, www.KnoxvilleHomeCenter.com is a great place to start.