Carpenter Bee Facts
Also known as: eastern carpenter bee, violet carpenter bee, Sonoran carpenter bee and valley carpenter bee
The carpenter bee got its name from the way it builds a nest by drilling tunnels into wood. There are 7 species of carpenter bees in the United States including the California carpenter bee, valley carpenter bee and mountain carpenter bee, but the most common is simply called the carpenter bee. This insect is found throughout the Eastern United States and west to Kansas and Texas.
Carpenter Bee Stings
Male carpenter bees are very territorial. When threatened, the males will dive-bomb and whirl around people’s heads to scare them away. The males are harmless, so no need to worry. Female carpenter bees, while they do have a stinger, are easygoing and will only sting if absolutely necessary.
Carpenter Bee Infestation
Carpenter bees are solitary and do not live in colonies. They emerge in the spring, mate, and the fertilized females will build their nests. The males die soon after mating. The female will chew into the wood, creating a hole about the size of their bodies. She will drill across the grain for one or two inches before making a right turn, and will extend the tunnel another four to six inches with the grain. The female will then create a ball of pollen and regurgitated nectar at the end of the tunnel, lay a single egg on top of the food, and seal off the chamber with a plug made of chewed wood pulp. She will continue doing this until she has made six to ten chambers for her young. The female dies soon after she has created the nest. The carpenter bee larvae will feed on the ball of food until they become adults. In late August, the adults will leave the nest to restock the tunnel with nectar and pollen. The brood will hibernate in the tunnel throughout the winter and emerge the following spring to mate.
The key to successfully getting rid of carpenter bees is to first find the nests. This includes a comprehensive inspection of your home and property to identify favorable conditions for bees as well as entry points to the nesting sites.
First, every single carpenter bee nest must be treated as well as the exterior of the building to prevent future nesting. After a few days the holes can be sealed. As a homeowner, you can help prevent carpenter bees by painting exposed wood surfaces with a polyurethane or oil-base paint or capping bare wood with high performance metal. You could also use non-wood materials for siding such as aluminum and vinyl.
Types of Carpenter Bees
Carpenter Bee Identification
Carpenter bees are large, round insects that range in length from ¾ to 1 inch. The thorax is covered with yellow, orange or white hairs, while the abdomen is shiny, black and hairless. Male carpenter bees have white on their heads, while the females’ heads are all black. Carpenter bees look similar to bumble bees, but bumblebees have thick yellow hairs on their abdomens. Only the female has a stinger.
Carpenter Bees In The Garden & The House
Carpenter bees will nest in a variety of soft and hard wood, but prefer wood that is old and weathered. Carpenter bee species in the eastern United States like soft woods like cedar, pine and fir. Species in the western United States prefer oak, redwood and eucalyptus. These drilling bees will nest in almost any type of wood on your property including fences, decks, arbors and siding. Unpainted wood and nail holes are ideal areas for a carpenter bee to begin a nest. Carpenter bees eat the nectar gathered from flowers. Carpenter bee nests might not be easily noticed, these driller bees may hide their nests near eaves or within the inner edge of fascia boards. Look for ¼-inch holes with yellow or brownish stains on the surface below from pollen and feces. You may also see small piles of sawdust or “frass” from the excavation of the nest. Typically, carpenter bee damage is cosmetic rather than structural to the wood on your home and property. Sometimes though, if the bees continue to reuse the old nesting sites, the wood could be seriously damaged. Females prefer to renovate old tunnels by making them a little longer. There have been tunnels found as long as ten feet. Also, Woodpeckers looking to eat carpenter bee larvae and pupae can make matters worse by making more holes in the wood.
Benefits of Professional Carpenter Bee Pest Control
A pest management professional has the education, equipment and skills necessary to effectively control a carpenter bee problem. Bee removal and control can be challenging, especially if the main nest is hidden somewhere outside. A pest management professional provides their expertise to identify and determine the best possible solution to resolve the carpenter bee infestation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Drilling Bees
What is the difference between carpenter bees and wasps?
Carpenter bees have robust, hairy bodies and eat pollen and nectar. Wasps are much more smooth and shiny with pinched waists. Wasps hunt insects and spiders for food.
What is the difference between carpenter bees and hornets?
Hornets are actually a type of wasp and have the same smooth body and appetite for protein. Hornets will scavenge for insects and spiders to eat. Carpenter bees have large “fuzzy” bodies and eat pollen and nectar.
Are carpenter bees aggressive?
Carpenter bees are not aggressive. People are most often scared by the males because they hover in the air near their nests and dart at any intruder nearby. Fortunately, male carpenter bees do not sting. Females do have a stinger, but are very mellow and rarely sting.