What is a Carpenter Bee?
These bees are a bit different from most bees.
They do not live in a hive like a honeybee, nor do they nest in the earth, like a ground bee. But rather, they make their home in softwoods – including the siding of your house.
Because of this, they can be the bane of every homeowner (and every exterior painter), but they are also a beneficial species in most gardens.
The Carpenter Bee
The carpenter bee is so-called because of where it chooses to make its home.
They are solitary bees and are not part of a larger hive community. Instead, they burrow into softwoods, such as the siding of a house, to live in and lay larvae.
The female carpenter bee is the one who makes the hole by chewing through the wood.
She creates a perfect hole, half an inch wide, in the wood. The symmetry of the circle is amazing, especially given they are making this hole with their mouths!
Once burrowed inside the wood, they will usually turn 90 degrees and make a tunnel down the length of the piece of wood.
If you’ve been asking ‘what does carpenter bee larvae look like?’, the larvae will be laid in separate chambers as shown in this image.
Geographically, carpenter bees can be found across the Southern United States, all the way up north of New York.
They are also found in other parts of the world, such as Australia, where they have large carpenter bees.
Like many varieties of bees, carpenters prefer warmer weather and are most active earlier in the morning.
Is it reported that carpenter bees can harvest nectar without pollinating the flower.
Because they are reasonably large bees, some flowers are too small for them to enter. Instead, they will cut a slit in the base of the petal, and drain the nectar that way.
These bees can grow up to an inch long.
Carpenter Bee Damage
Carpenter bees can significantly damage homes.
Repairing Carpenter Bee damage is no fun: half-inch holes in the side of your house are not something to be overlooked!
Carpenter bees do not eat the wood that they burrow into. They spit it back out, leaving a pile of wood dust below the entrance to the nest.
Here are some other problems with carpenter bees:
- The grubs will exacerbate damage upon growing
- Woodpeckers can cause major damage to your home while looking for the grubs to eat
- Rainwater can get into the chambers and rot out the wood over time
- If the bee has gone through a paint layer, or through flaking paint, the holes will quicken the deterioration of the remaining paint
- Other destructive insects can also take up residence in the holes & tunnels
One of the most expensive fix-ups on the exterior of a house is replacing siding.
It’s far better to get rid of carpenter bees before it gets to this stage.
Do Carpenter Bees Sting?
Only the female bee has a stinger, and she will only sting if directly threatened.
Carpenter bees are not an aggressive bee species.
However, although the male bee cannot sting, he is the one more likely to get up in your face if you get too close to a nest.
You can identify the male by the white spot in the middle of his head.
The male bees die after mating with the female. The female bee dies not long after laying larvae in the separate chambers of the soft-wood tunnel.
Carpenter Bee Facts
1. Carpenter Bee Holes
The female carpenter bee is the one who does the work.
Using her strong, powerful jaws she tunnels into softwoods like pine or cedar. This is amazing all on it’s own, but then consider the perfect 1/2 inch circles that are made… the symmetry is incredible.
2. Carpenter Bee Tunnels
After making the hole, she’ll turn 90° and tunnel into the wood to lay eggs.
Once the tunnel is the desired length, she’ll lay an egg at the end, and build a wall to create a unique chamber.
The wall is a mixture of pollen & wood which the hatched egg (larvae) will begin to eat. Each tunnel can have upwards of 9 chambers, each containing a single larva.
3. Woodpecker Assault
Some of the worst damage as a result of carpenter bees is caused by woodpeckers.
Once the eggs have hatched and the larvae start fattening up, they make delicious little morsels for woodpeckers. They will tap out the length of the tunnel, pulling the grubs from each chamber.
4. The Male Carpenter Bee
The male carpenter bee is the one that will dive-bomb those who get too close.
The interesting thing is that he does not have a stinger. Only the female does. However, he can be very intimidating, but you need not worry. The male can be identified by a while spot on the head.
5. Carpenter Bee Theft
Because carpenter bees can be quite large (up to an inch long), they cannot always fit inside flowers to collect pollen and pollinate the flowers.
Instead, they will make an incision at the bottom of the petal and drain the nectar from there, without even pollinating the flower!
6. Carpenter Bee Poo
Carpenter bee poo/feces (and many other types of bee poo) can be an irritation and cause for concern.
Because of the elements contained in the poo, it leaves stains, is hard to remove, and has even been known to left etchings in wood and glass!
This will certainly make you want to get rid of carpenter bees.
During the winter months, carpenter bees go into hibernation.
They will find an old tunnel to hole up in until the Spring. When warmer temperatures arrive, both male and female bees will exit their state of hibernation and go into mating.
Unfortunately for the males, not long after they find a female to breed with, they pass through the veil to the other side (ie. die).
The female will go on to lay eggs in their own chambers in the tunnel.
9. Sex Ratio
Carpenter bees tend to have an even sex ratio, meaning that there is an almost equal amount of male and female offspring produced (quite different from the heavily skewed female sex ratio in bumblebees).
However, in a laboratory setting, un-mated females will only produce male bees. The fertilized eggs produce females.
10. Carpenter bee color variations
Carpenter bees can be found around the world.
In the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere. The cool thing is that there are many different colored carpenter bees around the world as well.
For example, in Asia, there is a beautiful blue carpenter bee.