Often mistaken for bumble bees based on their size, coloring and appearance, Carpenter Bees are classified as a wood destroying insect due to their nesting habits. One significant difference is that carpenter bees have a shiny black abdomen whereas bumble bees have more of a fuzzy yellow abdomen. Carpenter Bees mate in the spring, the female will then seek out wood in which to build her nest. Soft woods such as pine, cedar and cypress that have not been painted or treated are prime targets for nest building along with soft woody plants.
Much like carpenter ants, carpenter bees to not eat the wood, they only excavate it, reusing portions of it when creating the nest. Larger species of carpenter bees bore holes roughly ½ inch in diameter. Once the entrance hole has been established, the female will create a turn in the tunnel and then bore a series of chambers in which she will place a ball of pollen and a single egg before “sealing” the chamber and moving onto the next one. The pollen provides provisions for the young bee as it matures within the chamber. The young bees emerge in the fall and will either build their own tunnels to overwinter or enlarge the tunnel in which they were born. Although a single carpenter bee does not typically cause significant damage, repeated attacks may cause noticeable damage. Occasionally, carpenter bee activity and nesting will attract woodpeckers which inflict additional damage to the structure in their attempts to access the larva inside the chambers.
Male carpenter bees frequently annoy and startle people by swiftly approaching and then hovering nearby. Unlike females which possess the ability to sting if provoked, males lack stingers and are quite harmless. Males are very territorial and will quickly give chase to flying insects that enter their territory.
Due to their unaggressive nature, carpenter bees rarely attract enough attention to warrant their control, although repeated attacks or invasion by woodpeckers may necessitate control. As with many stinging insects, most homeowners opt to contact a pest control professional to exterminate carpenter bees. A combination of products may be utilized for treatment of carpenter bees depending on the activity that is being seen. Pesticide dusts are most commonly used for nesting locations whereas aerosols or sprays may be utilized for flying carpenter bee activity such as males lingering near a nest site. In the event that you attempt to control activity on your own it is recommended to do so in the early morning or late evening when activity levels are lower.