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What Are Carpenter Bees?

When people think of wood-damaging insects, carpenter bees probably aren’t the first insect to come to mind. These bees can cause cosmetic and structural damage to your home and shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to know what to look for since carpenter bees can be mistaken for other types of bees. We’ve gathered information about carpenter bees to help you identify and eliminate an infestation.  

Appearance

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees because of their shape and size. However, there are a few ways to tell them apart. These bees fall into two categories—small and large.

Small carpenter bees, ceratina, can grow to be about 3/8″ in length. They have a dark body with a metallic coloring. It is common for them to have a yellow marking on their face.

Large carpenter bees, xylocopa, can grow up to 1″ in length. Their body can be a variety of colors including greenish-black, black, and blue. Large male carpenter bees typically have some yellow on their face. While these bees have a fuzzy, yellow thorax, their abdomen doesn’t have any visible hair. It is typically black and shiny.

Nest

Carpenter bees get their name from their nesting habits. They burrow into wood and form tunnels which are called galleries. They begin by creating an entrance hole which is round and typically less than 1/2″ in diameter. Carpenter bees will build nests in trees and other wooden objects like your home, deck, and siding.

They are attracted to unfinished or unpainted wood. Though they will use any available wood, they do have preferences including pine, oak, and redwood. Small carpenter bees will bring twigs into their nest.

Constructing nests takes a lot of time and energy. These bees actually prefer to move into abandoned nests instead of building a new one. If they use an old nest, they will add onto it and the nest can grow to be several feet. If they start a new nest, it will usually be between 4-6″. These nests are where bees lay eggs and stay during the winter.  

Habits

Carpenter bees can be found throughout the United States and can handle various climates. The environmental and weather conditions affect their development time.

These bees complete four life stages including egg, larval, pupal, and adult. It usually takes 7 weeks to reach adulthood.

Female carpenter bees lay eggs inside the nest after preparing a source of food. After laying eggs, they block the tunnel to protect their eggs.

Unlike other bees, carpenter bees construct individual nests and aren’t social insects. This means that they do not live in a colony.

Though they tunnel through wood, they do not eat it. Their diet consists of nectar and pollen from plants.

Though these bees appear tough, they really aren’t. Males are extremely protective and will fly around “buzzing” people. They aren’t aggressive unless they feel threatened. However, males lack a stinger so they cannot cause any physical harm.

Threats

Even though male carpenter bees can’t sting, females can. However, they won’t attack people unless they sense danger. These bees won’t cause much harm to you, but they can cause damage to your home.

Since carpenter bees nest in wood, your home can be targeted. The tunnels that they build weaken the wood. The more holes and tunnels that are created, the higher chance of structural damage which could be costly.

Carpenter bee larvae also attract woodpeckers. They can cause more problems if they attempt to locate the larvae.

The best way to identify a carpenter bee infestation is to see these large bees flying or entrance holes to their nests. If you find sawdust near an opening, there’s a good chance carpenter bees could be the cause. They may also leave behind pollen or feces which will have a yellow coloring.

Prevention and Treatment

Carpenter bees can cause problems for you and your home, so it’s important to take steps to prevent their presence.

Carpenter bees love unpainted, weathered wood. Eliminating unfinished wood near or on your home will help keep them from building nests. You can apply either an exterior paint or stain to discourage carpenter bees from staying.

As with other pests, sealing cracks and repairing tears in your window screens can help ensure they won’t enter your home.

If you discover a carpenter bee infestation, you’ll want to act quickly. Using a dust, like Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Spider & Insect Dust, on the infested wood will help treat the problem. Place the dust in the entrance hole and seal it.

You can also use a spray, like Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Home Bug Spray or Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Wasp & Hornet Killer to spray in the entrance holes and seal it, or to kill the bees outside of the nest.   

Buzzing bees can always make people a little uneasy, and carpenter bees are no exception. Knowing what you’re up against will help you choose the best treatment option. If you’re dealing with carpenter bees or other bugs, we want to help! Check out our Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Pest Control products.


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