Carpenter Bee

Actual Size: ½ ” –  1”

Characteristics: Large, black and yellow; shiny hairless abdomen

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: They do not live in nests. Instead, females bore deep holes through softwood and deposit their eggs inside

Habits:

  • Do not eat wood, but cause damage by boring into decaying or weathered wood.
  • Male carpenter bees lack a stinger but are very aggressive.
  • Females have a stinger but rarely sting unless provoked.

Carpenter Bees in Bristol

The carpenter bee is a large, robust bee that bores tunnels into the untreated wood of structures. Generally black in color and 1/4 to 1 inch in length, these bees are often mistaken for bumblebees. Carpenter bees resemble bumblebees, but are solitary and do not build hives. The upper surface of their abdomen is bare and shiny black, while bumblebees have a hairy abdomen with at least some yellow markings. This type of stinging bee gets its name from its habit of boring into wood like a carpenter. They do not, however, consume the wood through which they tunnel.

Carpenter Bee Habitat

The female carpenter bee begins her nest by drilling a perfectly round entrance hole (about 1/2 inch diameter) into wood. When the tunnel is about 1 inch deep, the bee turns at right angles and tunnels with the grain of the wood. Bees prefer to attack soft unfinished wood that is greater than two inches thick. Carpenter bees hibernate in vacant nest tunnels during the winter.

Carpenter bees are not social insects and create individual nests in trees, eaves, or sides of structures. The mated female selects a suitable piece of wood for nest construction while the male spends most of their time hovering near nest sites. The female excavates a gallery using her mandibles, furnishes her nest with “bee bread” (a mixture of pollen and regurgitated nectar), deposits an egg, and closes the cell with chewed wood pulp. A carpenter bee infestation is usually detected by observing a large amount of sawdust and pollen on the ground below the area being chewed and excavated.

Carpenter Bee Behavior & Dangers

Female carpenter bees are rarely aggressive but will sting if provoked. If a person is stung by a carpenter bee and is allergic to bee venom, they should seek immediate medical attention.  Male carpenter bees do not possess a stinger, but can be extremely defensive when protecting and defending their nest. Although carpenter bees can be helpful pollinators, they can cause significant damage to structures. Windowsills, wooden siding, decks, railings, outdoor furniture, and fences can be attacked. While the damage to wood from the excavation of individual carpenter bees may be slight, the activities of numerous bees over many years can result in considerable destruction. If you suspect a carpenter bee infestation, it is recommended to contact a bee control professional.