I am a professional woodworker and am trying to help a client with a serious carpenter bee infestation. Based on what I have read on your very informative site, I know personally that Drione works great. I am concerned that the client’s deck is too far gone and needs to be replaced. I have suggested IPE as a very good replaement wood because of it hardness. Do you know if carpenter bees can attack IPE? I have some benches that I made on their deck made from Iroke, which is much harder that pine but not as hard as IPE. The benches have not been damaged by the bees.
It will be a big investment for them so I want to have as much confidence in my recommendation as possible. Thanks for your help.
I can’t say I’ve any specific information or data concerning the use of IPE over standard pine, redwood or cedar. However, I can tell you what I’ve seen happen over the years regarding carpenter bee infestations. In general, my observations reflect a result which is based more on the general state of the wood involved and not so much the species. Let me explain.
For one thing, carpenter bees do a good job at locating weak wood. What I mean by weak is the wood is seemingly in a state lending itself to easy to access. For carpenter bees, easy access generally means untreated and vulnerable. No doubt a good layer of paint is a kind of protectant and wood which is painted is less likely to be drilled compared to wood which is unfinished. Stronger still and less likely to fall under attack by carpenter bees is wood which is both painted and treated with either CYPERMETHRIN or INSECT REPELLENT. No doubt either treatment on painted or unpainted wood will stop any nests from happening for sure when kept active and done “in season”.
So to answer your question; I don’t think the species of wood is nearly as important as the condition of the wood itself. In this case, if you were to install IPE and the local bees found a weak spot, I’m sure they’ll take advantage. I recently observed a pile of rough sawn hardwood – mostly oak and hickory – that lay in a giant pile in the woods. the logs were squared and stacked 10 feet high; each log was 10 feet long. This was quite a valuable stock of logs and one you would imagine should be quite resilient to the common wood predators such as carpenter bees, carpenter ants, termites and powderpost beetles. Yet I couldn’t help but notice what appeared to be carpenter bee holes. Upon closer observation they were in fact drilled out. I counted some 8 holes randomly located on the logs which had only laid out for 1.5 years. I also found carpenter ant activity as well as powderpost beetles. My point is simple; contrary to popular belief, carpenter bees will no doubt drill into oak and hickory if available and vulnerable. Yet do we see oak and hickory readily used for decking or other outside construction? Probably not as much as pine. So it only makes sense that we shouldn’t be seeing nearly as much of it infested with CARPENTER BEES and are therefore more likely to be falsely lead into thinking such woods aren’t vulnerable to their attack. This would be a grave mistake. And I think the same logic applies to IPE.
So in summary, I’m sure using a harder wood compared to pine is always going to prove to get less insect activity if a side by side comparison of the two were scientifically done. But would the less “insect attracting” wood validate it’s use (cost)? I’m not able to answer that question. Much like the question of “how much insurance should I get”, this is a personal choice and one only the homeowner themselves can make. I do know a good dose of Cypermethrin or NBS Concentrate each spring when carpenter bees are most active will protect any species of wood and that such treatments are cheap compared to having to replace decks every few years due to insect damage. So if cost is the true unit of measure, it only stands to reason using the less costly wood but properly treating and protecting from year to year would be a better way to obtain the objective. And more importantly, building with IPE and then leaving it untreated and unprotected would be a poor recommendation under any condition if the goal is to prevent insect activity.
Here are direct links to the information and products mentioned in my response to your questions:
Carpenter Bee Control: http://www.carpenterbees.com
Give us a call if you still have questions.