Will Soapy Water Kill Carpenter Bees? Are There Any Alternatives?

Will Soapy Water Kill Carpenter Bees?

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We do love bees but sometimes they can become a pest. If you have an infestation of bees that you can’t live with any longer, there’s often no other way than to kill off the colony.

There are a lot of methods suggested online and by extermination professionals but one of the most talked about is soapy water or dish soap. But will soapy water kill carpenter bees?

Yes. soapy water works very well to kill carpenter bees and many other insects. This is because it is a surfactant. Essentially, it will make the water even wetter and this gets inside the bee and sticks to it, effectively killing it.

There are, of course, other ways to deal with your carpenter bee problem but soapy water is great if you’re looking for a non-toxic method. In this guide, we’ll explore how this works and look at some alternatives.

How Does Soapy Water Kill Carpenter Bees?

Before we get into how this method works, I’d like to point out that not all situations can be handled by the homeowner. There are times that the nest is too big or too dangerous for you to deal with alone and in this case, I’d suggest contacting a local exterminator who will be able to safely fix the problem.

What’s more, a lot of people mistake a wasp nest for a carpenter bee nest and since wasps are a lot more aggressive, this could be risky. Make sure that you know exactly what you’re dealing with before you try to tackle the issue.

However, if you’re confident that you can take on the small nest then it is possible to use soapy water to get rid of carpenter bees. To do this, you will need to use one part dish soap and four parts water.

It is best to apply the solution using a spray bottle but I would advise choosing something that’s got a strong spray for the best results. Also make sure that, when you apply the solution, any kids or pets are well out of the way.

So, you’re all ready to kill those carpenter bees with soapy water but how does it work? Well, dish soap is what is known as a surfactant. In simple terms, that is a substance which has the ability to make water wetter. When it is applied to a surface (including the body of a bee), rather than forming droplets, it will cover the whole surface.

When the solution is on the carpenter bee, it will surround the waxy coat which usually stops the bee from getting wet. This means that the wax is no longer effective and water can penetrate through. The water will get inside the bee’s body so that it drowns.

Be Careful When Killing Carpenter Bees With Soapy Water

Using soapy water to get rid of your carpenter bee infestation is incredibly effective. However, you have to keep in mind that there are some risks. When you use this method, you’ll need to make sure you do it properly and take the correct precautions.

For starters, keep in mind that the bees aren’t going to die the moment you apply the solution. It’s going to take some time and during that time, the bees are not going to be happy. They’ll become panicked and aggressive and will be much more likely to sting. This is why it’s really important to keep pets and children out of the way. It’s also essential that you cover yourself and move away from the bees as soon as you have finished applying the solution.

In some cases, you’ll have to spray several bees at once and they’ll probably be in a cluster. When you spray them, you’re only going to get the bees on the outside of the cluster. But that doesn’t mean that the inside bees are going to remain calm. They’ll get just as annoyed and be very likely to sting so again, be extremely careful. As the outer bees drop away, you can then tackle the ones that were underneath.

Is It Morally Correct To Kill Pollinators?

There is so much talk about taking care of pollinators, planting more native plants and giving these creatures the space they need to thrive. After all, bees help us by pollinating crops for food. A lot of pollinators are endangered and the thought of killing them can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Before you tackle the nest, I would recommend getting a professional, or even a knowledgeable friend or family member, to have a look to see if you’re dealing with an endangered species. If you are, then it might be best to contact someone who can take care of things without harming the bees.

But in a lot of cases, you have no other choice than to kill the bees. Of course, I would say that this should always be a last resort. If the bee colony poses an immediate danger to you or your home then you may need to kill it.

Other Ways To Get Rid Of Carpenter Bees

Using soapy water is a tried and tested method that really does work. It doesn’t involve using any harsh chemicals and it’s very easy. But you might wonder whether there are other ways to kill carpenter bees and the good news is that there are.

Loud Sounds

Carpenter bees do not like vibrations from loud noises so using loud sounds to deter them can be very effective. One of the great things about this method is that it’s super easy and it won’t cause any harm to the bees.

All you need to do is get your loudest speakers and set them up close to where the bees are. Turn up the volume and let the vibrations work their magic.

It is important to point out that you’ll probably need to leave the music running for a couple of days if you want the whole nest to fly away. For this reason, it’s common decency to inform your neighbors but I’m sure they’ll also be glad to see the back of the bees.

Once you have got rid of the bees, there is a risk of them coming back which is why it’s important to take preventative measures to avoid this.

Use Citrus Scents

So many insects are sensitive to citrus scents and carpenter bees are no exception. It’s best to use a natural citrus spray on the affected area using things like lemon, grapefruit, lime, and orange. Just boil these in some water and then add the mixture to a spray bottle.

What’s great about this method is that it’s totally natural and doesn’t use any harsh chemicals. Moreover, while the bees won’t like the spray, it won’t harm them so you can feel confident that you’ve not damaged the local ecosystem. You can even use the spray on the wooden structure after the bees have left to prevent them from returning.

Use A Bee Trap

If there isn’t an entire nest of carpenter bees but just a few bothersome buzzers around the garden then you might use a bee trap. Again, this is an easy method and all you need to do is hang the trap close to the problem area.

The bees will be attracted to the trap but once inside, they’ll be unable to get out. You can also use this method for a larger colony but be aware that it can take some time as this will only gradually reduce the population.

Check Out These Bee Traps:

If All Else Fails, Use Chemicals

I don’t like to have to say it but in some cases, you have to admit defeat and use a chemical product such as an insecticide. While this isn’t something that a lot of homeowners want to do, there’s no denying that it’s extremely effective.

You can buy powders which are generally thought of as being the best and will not only remove existing bees but will prevent them from returning in the future. It is best to use the powder at night when the bees are less active as this will reduce the chances of you getting stung while you apply it.

Once you have applied the product, you probably won’t need to do it again. Although it is a good idea to top up the treatment the following season if you’re looking to keep the bees at bay for good.

There are also liquid insecticides but these only tend to work on smaller infestations that aren’t deep. If the infestation is in the early stages and the bees haven’t burrowed too far into the wood then these products should do the trick.

They usually come as a spray so they’re easy to apply but be careful to protect your skin when using them. After the initial application, it’s worth reapplying every four or so weeks, especially during spring.

Can You Use Petrol To Kill Carpenter Bees?

There are a lot of people that recommend using petrol or diesel to kill carpenter bees. And yes, this is something that works. However, you have to keep in mind that these substances are highly flammable and give off strong fumes so you must be careful when using them.

You’ll want to make sure that you wear appropriate protective equipment such as a respirator, gloves and eye goggles.


If you’ve been having pest problems with carpenter bees then we understand that you’ll be keen to get rid of them. There are lots of ways you can do this but many people wonder will soapy water kill carpenter bees?

This is an effective solution to the problem but it is sometimes frowned upon because it means killing pollinators. If you have no other way then soapy water can be used.

However, there are other ways that you can deal with the problem including driving the bees away with loud music or using a citrus spray.

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