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 holes through soft wood to lay eggs in

Habits:

  • Male carpenter bees lack a stinger, but are very aggressive
  • Female carpenter bees do possess a stinger but seldom use it unless they are handled or provoked
  • Can be a real nuisance to homeowners because they tunnel into decks, porches, and other wood structures

Carpenter Bees in Eastern Tennessee

Carpenter bees are a wood-destroying insect. However, unlike termites, carpenter bees do not actually eat wood. Instead, they get their name from their habit of boring into wood to create chambers for their eggs. They prefer to excavate tunnels in wood, particularly in lumber that is dry and weathered. Along with bumblebee queens, carpenter bees are the largest native bees in the United States. Carpenter bees can be found across the southern United States from Arizona to Florida and in the eastern United States. Here in Tennessee, they are common in the summertime.

Carpenter Bee Habitat

Unlike many types of bees, carpenter bees are not social and live a solitary life. create individual nests in trees, eaves, or sides of structures. Males and females overwinter in old nest tunnels and emerge in the spring to mate. 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. If you notice a pile of sawdust on the ground near a wooden structure, this could be a sign you have a carpenter bee problem.

Carpenter Bee Behavior & Stings

Only female carpenter bees possess stingers, while male carpenter bees do not. 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 on the other hand are very aggressive and defensive of their nest, but will not sting.

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. In any case, it’s important to always contact your local bee control experts if you have noticed the signs of a carpenter