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How to get rid of carpenter bees

From DIY hacks to calling in the professionals, here's what works and what doesn't.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If you've seen carpenter bees flying around your patio this spring, you're not alone.

They're buzzing about, biting into wood to build their nests, damaging property in the process.

"For one thing, they're a nuisance," said Professor Karen Vail.

And that's coming from an entomologist.

Vail had no problem finding old carpenter bee holes to show what damage they can do.

"What they do is they drill in across the grain, then they make a right angle turn and their tunnels, their galleries, will go along here," she said.

Once the bees are in that hole in the wood of your house, they don't leave.

So now what?

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"They are pollinators, so it depends if you want to keep pollinators alive and allow your home to be damaged, or if you're very concerned about preserving your home then you might want to do something," said Vail.

Let's say you want the carpenter bees to live, just not near you.

You could wait until they fly away for the day, and seal up the holes with caulk. If you don't want to wait for that, try some of the DIY hacks offered online.

"There are so many creative carpenter bee traps out there," said Vail.

But do any of them work?

One tip suggests blasting loud music near the bees to scare them away.

"I don't think you're gonna deter her with music," Vail said of the queen bee.

She said once they find a place to start nesting, it takes a lot for them to leave.

Some claim citrus or tea tree essential oils can drive bees away if sprayed into the holes.

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"You may be able to kill bees on contact but you're not gonna kill what's back in that gallery developing," said Vail.

That same concept applies to whacking at the bees with a tennis racket.

Maybe you'll kill some of the male bees hovering, but the females are inside working.

One online hack said filling holes with tin foil works, but Vail said that's too thin and the bees can just bite through it.

A favorite making the rounds on Facebook shows a brown plastic bag filled with other plastic bags, hung on the corner of the house to look like a fake hornets nest that would deter the bees.

Credit: Chubby Pickle Farm

"I don't think without the real thing present, I don't think that's gonna have much effect either," said Vail.

Some people have had great results with these hacks, claiming they haven't seen any carpenter bees since trying them out.

Others, not so much.

With a lack of research done in to the DIY aspect of controlling carpenter bees, Vail said the only sure-fire way to get rid of carpenter bees is using insecticidal dust.

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"It's not gonna absorb into the wood," she said. "It'll coat that void. And when that new generation comes out, those new sets of bees emerge, they're gonna go through that gallery and get exposed to the insecticide and die."

Spray insecticides will only get rid of bees in the near vicinity.

You can place that insecticide yourself, or hire a professional to take care of the pests.

Vail said if you're able, replacing wood siding with vinyl siding on a house will keep the carpenter bees away. Wood is their preferred place to nest because it's soft enough to chew.

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