Carpenter bees may look like bumblebee bees; however, these buzzing insects can be much more of a pest than a pollinator. Often spotted hovering around trees, eaves, or other wooden structures, carpenter bees are capable of plenty of damage if left unchecked. But what exactly are carpenter bees, and what can you do to get rid of them?

Carpenter bees fall under the species Xylocopa, which is made up of nearly 500 bee types. These insects are known for their nesting behavior, which takes place in dead wood, or other hard plant materials. While most species tend to go for would, there are a few subgenuses that prefer nesting in soil tunnels.

Like most bees, carpenter bees are hairy, especially on their thorax. Their bodies, however, are sleek black without any additional yellow markings. They can range between ¼ – 1 inch long, and they have six legs. They are rounder, plumper bees, and often get mistaken for bumblebees.

While carpenter bees can sting, they usually won’t unless bothered. Females of the species can sting, but they rarely do unless provoked. Males, on the other hand, do not have a stinger at all. Instead, they typically fly aggressively around larger animals and people. But, in this case, their buzz is worse than their bite. However, carpenter bees can be quite harmful to structures.

Carpenter bees can be found just about anywhere. They pop up during the spring and start digging out their homes in untreated, weathered wood, or mud. They dig out places called galleries to lay their eggs and stay over the winter.

While they can be quite a nuisance if they take an interest in your home, carpenter bees are crucial pollinators. They tend to pollinate flowering plants, gardens, farms, and other growth. Unfortunately, their living quarters make them much more of a pest.

Since only the females can sting and they don’t carry any known diseases, carpenter bees are not a high threat. However, if you have allergies, you may want to avoid a nest. Unless you are made of wood, carpenter bees aren’t harmful.

Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees at first glance, but these two pollinators are quite different. Bumblebees have a completely hairy abdomen and sport clear black and yellow stripes. They also nest underground, rather than in wood. Carpenter bees may have a little bit of hair; however, their body is mostly a sleek, shiny black.

No. They feed on pollen and nectar. Carpenter bees excavate wood and create homes to lay their eggs and rest over the winter. While they don’t consume the wood, they do have their favorites. Carpenter bees favor pine, Cyprus, oak, and redwood, particularly if they are unfinished and unpainted. They will occasionally bore into painted wood, typically if it’s unkempt.

Since plenty of our homes are constructed with wood, carpenter bees can become quite a pest. They will dig into doors, windowsills, roof eaves, decks, railings, fences, and even furniture. Females will chew circular holes in wood to make galleries to store their eggs. The damage is internal and can weaken the surface, making it susceptible to moisture, rot, and decay. While not as dangerous as termites, carpenter bees tend to return to these spots time and again.

Carpenter bees are not social insects. They don’t live in nests or colonies, but instead, are solitary insects. Instead of nesting together, they will forage and store their nectar and pollen in their tunnels to wait out the winter. If they survive, they will venture out, mate, and possibly return to their old haunt or create a new one.

Carpenter bees prefer hard, untreated wood for their nesting tunnels, though they will use painted wood if it is weathered enough. The bees will chew into the flat wood surfaces and leave small round holes, creating a deep tunnel to store food or create an egg gallery.

You can easily spot a carpenter bee infestation by the round, smooth holes they leave behind as they create their nesting tunnels. You can spot this damage by just checking the exterior of your home or any surface the bees may be drawn too. Carpenter bees will also start flying aggressively around you if you are getting too close to their home. Again, while the males cannot sting you, the females are capable. Exercise caution as you search.

Since the world is growing short on pollinators, it would be a bad idea to kill bees. They are not particularly dangerous, but as a nuisance, it can be hard to hold back. While carpenter bees do pollinate, they aren’t adept at it. They usually aim to take the nectar and can end up breaking the flowers. Still, there are alternatives to killing carpenter bees.

Unfortunately, since carpenter bees will return to familiar territory and nesting tunnels, it can be difficult to get rid of them. Plus, any larvae left behind can be enticing to other animals like Woodpeckers. Since these bees are solitary creatures, the only form of pest control that is effective is spraying the actual nesting galleries. Even if you get rid of the bees you currently have, they will return. With any bee infestation, the best way to deal with it is by calling a pest control expert.

To prevent a carpenter bee infestation from returning, you must repair the wood they are attracted to. Make sure to treat or paint any wooden surfaces. In addition, perform regular maintenance by sealing cracks, crevices, and touching up areas with silicone-based caulk. Be sure to remove all temptation and the bees will look elsewhere. Additionally, if you want the bees to leave your home alone and you want to keep them thriving, you can install carpenter bee homes at least 50 feet away from your home.

Concluding Thoughts

Pollinators do their part to keep the world spinning. Unfortunately, carpenter bees can prove to be more of a nuisance than a helper. As the weather grows warm, keep an eye on your wooden structures. Though mostly harmless, these busy bees can cause serious property damage. Should you notice a carpenter bee infestation, take the steps needed and contact a pest control expert.