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:

  • Are solitary and do not live in colonies like other bees
  • Do not eat wood, but cause damage by boring into decaying or weathered wood
  • Male carpenter bees lack a stinger, but are very aggressive

Carpenter Bees in Vermont

Contrary to popular belief, carpenter bees do not eat wood. Instead, they burrow through it in order to create brood chambers for their young. Along with bumble bee queens, carpenter bees are the largest native bees in the United States. Carpenter bees can be found across the United States and are commonly seen in the summertime here in Vermont. Carpenter bees target lumber that is dry and weathered.

Carpenter bees hibernate in vacant nest tunnels during the winter. As the weather warms in spring, adult bees emerge and mate. Males die after mating, while females construct brood chambers. Females place a ball of food made of pollen and nectar into each chamber. She then lays an egg and seals the chamber shut. Eggs hatch within a few days, and 5 to 7 weeks later, the young bees reach adulthood. Carpenter bees typically live for about one year.

Carpenter Bee Nests or Hives

Carpenter bees are more solitary insects. 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. A carpenter bee infestation is usually detected by observing the large amount of sawdust and pollen on the ground below the area being chewed and excavated. Carpenter bees also emit a noise that indicates their nesting activity.

Carpenter Bee Habits & Stings

Female carpenter bees are rarely aggressive, but will sting if provoked. Male carpenter bees do not possess a stinger, but can be extremely defensive when protecting and defending their nest. While rare, 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 excavation of individual carpenter bees may be slight, the activities of numerous bees over many years can result in considerable destruction.

If you have noticed a large amount of carpenter bees in or near your property, always contact your local bee control experts for assistance.