Carpenter bees causing damage to western cedar deck boards

The River Hill Traveler’s Bob Brennecke answers your outdoor questions:

QUESTION: “While replacing our western cedar wood deck boards this fall, we discovered many holes bored into them about one-half inch in diameter and running sometimes a foot or more into the 2″ by 10”. At the end of the hole it was sealed with a cocoon material. What caused this damage and what could be done in the future to stop this?”

ANSWER: You have encountered the damage from the carpenter bee found in Missouri (Xylocopa virginica), a large species also known from Florida north to Connecticut, and west to Illinois, Kansas and Texas. 

They are similar in size and appearance to bumble bees. Carpenter bees are normally considered to be beneficial insects because they pollinate a wide variety of plant species. 

However, when making tunnels in the wood of human structures, they are considered to be economic pests. 

The openings to these tunnels are a near-perfect circle measuring about one-half inch in diameter. The tunnel goes straight into the wood for a few inches before making a 90-degree turn and following the length of the wood. 

It is not unusual for several tunnels to extend out from a single opening. 
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Just like regular bees, carpenter bees feed on the nectar and pollen found in plants. However, unlike their bumblebee cousins, carpenter bees don’t live in hives or large social groups. 

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