Carpenter Bees- Friend or Foe?

A carpenter bee looks similar to a bumble bee. Here are the differences between the two:

  • Carpenter bees have a shiny abdomen, hairless upperCarpenter Bee abdomen surface with yellow colored hairs on the mid-section or thorax. They are heavy-bodied and metallic blue-black with green or purplish highlights. Bumblebees have a hairy yellow upper abdominal surface.
  • Carpenter bees nest in wood whereas bumblebees nest in the ground.

Though carpenter bees are very large and intimidating, they are not aggressive. The females are only capable of stinging, and usual don't sting unless provoked.

The carpenter bees like unpainted softwoods such as pine and chew 3/8" entry hole. The most common sites can include fascia board, behind the gutters, deck railings, and unpainted lawn furniture, and fencing.

After chewing a short entrance, the carpenter bee will chew another tunnel, several inches long at a ninety degree angle to the opening where the female will lay eggs starting from the back, working toward the gallery opening. There is typically one generation annually with the most activity in the Spring.

carpenter bee's gallery

Before they start to build this year's nests, you can act quickly (without killing the bees) by quickly plugging up their holes with steel wool or metal screening stapled overtop. You could also spray or brush some almond oil around the area-Cornell researchers found that it repels carpenter bees. Just don't spray the bees! Next drill some "starter holes" - 3/8" into a block of pine or other soft wood and hang the wood in a protected area facing South or East near where you have blocked off the bees original holes.

Long term, you'll need to paint, varnish or replace with metal, treated wood,  or fiberglass over any unfinished softwoods. Carpenter bees are known to return to previously used galleries from year to year.

They are friends for they are great pollinators who will double the amount of food and flowers in your gardens.

Have you looked at our other How To Flower Articles or our Flower Picture Gallery?