How to protect wood from carpenter bees & how to get rid of them from your swing set

Investing in a wooden swing set is one of the best purchasing decisions you can make for your kids. The fresh air and safety of play in your own backyard make it one of the healthiest choices as well. If you are considering a swing set, the best kind is a wooden one which adds a more natural feel and can last longer than standard metal ones. However, your kids will not be the only ones that fall in love with your wooden swing set, you can expect carpenter bees to show up for backyard play as well. 

Even if carpenter bees do show up, there’s no need to worry! We’ve got you covered! Here is the buzz on these pesky insects, the damage they can do, and how to protect wood from carpenter bees

What are carpenter bees? 🐝

Carpenter bees look like their cousin, the bumblebee, but the males do not have stingers, and the females very seldom sting unless provoked. Most notably, it’s the sheer size of these insects that is the first clue of their difference. In fact, you may even question how they are even able to fly—they are ginormous! 

Other notable differences are their markings and appearance. Carpenter bees are not fuzzy but have a black, shiny abdomen. Male ones have a noticeable white spot on their faces. Aptly-named, carpenter bees take up residence in nests built in softwoods such as pine, redwood, cypress, and cedar. 

What are the signs of a carpenter bee wood infestation?

Nature gave these insects the ability to drill a perfectly-round, half-inch hole with precision into wood. Seriously, you’d be hardpressed to do the same with power tools. 

Here are some signs that your wooden swing set has been infested by carpenter bees: 

Odd holes in the wood

One of the most recognizable signs that you have carpenter bees attacking your wooden swing set is small, half-inch, perfectly-round holes. At first glance, it might be hard to fathom how they squeeze their bulky bodies into them, but these holes can run deep. In some cases, these openings lead to a labyrinth of smaller tunnels inside your wood. 

Light dusting of sawdust

Drilling into these holes no matter how small will still leave behind a minuscule amount of sawdust. You may also notice sawdust sprinkled farther out from the hole or even on the ground.  

Wood-shaving sounds

If you are close enough, you will hear the soft scraping sound as the carpenter bees are hard at work building their tunnels and nests. No need to get your hearing checked nor is this your imagination.

caprenter bees

How do carpenter bees damage wood?

The amount of damage can vary depending on whether you have a full-blown infestation and how long these little buggers have been at it. But left unchecked, the damage could be major, as these holes, albeit tiny, open up your wood to a plethora of problems. 

Here are just some of the potential problems that carpenter bees can cause to wood:

  • Staining 

Carpenter bee nests lack indoor plumbing so all that feces ends up being absorbed into wood which leaves behind little stains. 

  • Moisture damage 

Remember those tunnels mentioned earlier? If the holes weren’t bad enough, water can find its way into those tunnels and wreak havoc on the structural integrity of your wood—leading to a weakened wooden swing set. 

  • Attracting the birds and the bees

The early bird gets the worm, and the larvae of carpenter bees make the perfect meal or snack for woodpeckers and other birds. The larvae or eggs are not easy to access either, laid by the female bees deep in those tunnels. If you thought the carpenter bees were a pest, wait till you see the havoc a woodpecker can wreak on your wooden swing set. 

How to protect wood from carpenter bees

Now that we’ve covered what the presence of carpenter bees looks like and the kind of damage they can cause, let’s talk about how to protect wood from carpenter bees and evict them from their homes. 

  • Treating the wood 

Treated wood is not an attractive home for a nest and is harder to burrow into and tunnel, which is why some sort of barrier is essential. This is especially important for the favorite nesting ground of carpenter bees—softwoods. These include pine, redwood, cedar, and cypress. Stains and varnishes can be ample but do not offer the same level of protection as a paint or a sealing primer. Either way, a minimum of two coats goes a long way. 

  • Woods under pressure

Pressure-treated woods such as pine are the perfect deterrent to carpenter bees. The most commonly-used is pine but based on preference, there are plenty of options. Doing this before applying sealant or paint helps your swing set to be a less-desirable home for any pest!

  • Sealing off cracks and crevices

The last thing you want to do is offer an open invitation for carpenter bees to make a home. Make your wooden swing set a less inviting place for carpenter bees to call home from the start by filling in holes such as cracks, splinters, nail holes, and any other crevice with caulking or putty. 

How to get rid of carpenter bees on a swing set

Shoo bees shoo! Whether you have just discovered your unwanted guests or they’ve outstayed their unsolicited welcome, you can still get rid of carpenter bees on your swing set. Here’s how:

  • Find the holes

Once you’ve discovered the presence or the potential homes of carpenter bees, it’s important to identify both active and deserted holes where females could carve out a home for a nursery to lay their eggs. 

  • Fill in empty, deserted holes

Use some steel wool, aluminium foil, and a dowel to fill in any deserted holes. Glue everything on your swing set with some wood glue and paint over it to ensure consistency in terms of color. 

  • If carpenter bees still live in your swing set 

If you DO find evidence of carpenter bees, expect them to return after they left in the spring and fall. Caulk is not the only preventative measure to seal off entries, but wood glue and steel wool can also block bees’ access.  

If you find yourself in an active infestation, you need to be ready to go to war—so to speak. Carpenter bees are famous for bumbling about active nests, and insecticides may be in order. Less toxic options are available such as boric acid but more drastic chemicals can be used. Turns out, bees enjoy happy hour as much as any human and dusk is the best time to apply any chemical warfare as they are at rest. 


Encountering nature brings unwanted guests but that doesn’t mean you can’t solve the problem. Your wooden swing set is the perfect place for all to enjoy the great outdoors whether it’s at home and play