Carpenter bees are common in most homes. You may misidentify them for bumblebees as they are alike in size and appearance. However, carpenter bees have shiny abdomens, whereas those of bumblebees are hair-covered.
Carpenter bees are 12-25mm in length, with body color mostly being solid black or golden-blond. The males have a distinct white space on the head, which the females do not have.
There are lots of species of carpenter bees but the Xylocopa virginica is the one most common in America.
The carpenter bee has a 4-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The cycle begins in spring when males and females mate. Shortly after, the male dies while the female lays eggs in her nest. The eggs are laid on bee bread, which is composed of pollen and regurgitated nectar. This bread is the food for larva and pupa.
It takes about 7 weeks for a carpenter bee to become an adult. It emerges in August, feeds on nectar, and returns to its nest to overwinter.
What Do Carpenter Bees Eat?
Contrary to what many believe, carpenter bees do not eat wood. They live on the pollen and nectar of plants. The females use some of this pollen to make bee bread.
Carpenter bees are good pollinators of plants like tomato and eggplants. But for long tubular flowers, carpenter bees are nectar robbers. Since they can’t get into the flower, they make an opening at the corolla and steal nectar, leaving without pollinating the plant.
Do Carpenter Bees Sting?
The males do not sting despite looking scary for their size and buzzing noise. They may dart after other insects or humans who invade their territory. But this aggression does not lead to any harm. It’s simply meant to intimidate.
Females, however, do sting. But this is very rare, and mainly in situations where they have been handled. Unlike male carpenter bees, the females do not show aggressive behavior.
Carpenter Bees Nest
Carpenter bees make their nests in wood. They prefer old, unfinished wood that is soft. They have modified mandibles designed to accomplish this task. This drilling behavior is common in late spring and early summer.
The nests begin with a hole, the entrance, which is ½ inch in diameter. This then turns at right angles, giving way to
several tunnels. A single entrance can contain as many as 4 tunnels which are usually 6 inches to 4 feet long.
Since it’s costly to make new nests, carpenter bees reuse old ones. They may drill new tunnels into old nests or deepen existing tunnels.
Carpenter Bees Facts
Here are some facts you must know about carpenter bees:
- Mating usually happens once a year and the eggs are laid in July.
- Carpenter bees will usually spot other insects if they move too quickly. Humans will also be noticed if moving quickly or waving hands.
- Carpenter bees are solitary insects. However, the females can share nests and food with their daughters and sisters. Unlike other bees, there are no queens or workers among carpenter bees.
- It is only the female carpenter bees that build nests.
- A female carpenter bee only lays 6 to 10 eggs in her lifetime.
Carpenter Bees Damage
While carpenter bees can make holes into wooden structures, the damage is usually minimal. Firstly, carpenter bees do not multiply in large numbers as other insects. Secondly, they reuse old tunnels, which can be made deeper over time. In cases of extreme infestation, however, old wooden structures may be weakened.
Carpenter bees also defecate on walls. Furthermore, the accumulation of sawdust under drilled wood is unsightly.
Signs of Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees are easy to spot, especially if you spend much time outdoors. They are active during the day, meaning you are likely to run into them. Here is how you can tell if there are carpenter bees around your home:
- The presence of holes in wooden These are the entrances into the nests.
- Sawdust on the ground.
- Carpenter bees flying into their nests or hovering over flowers.
- Excrement near nest entrances.
How to Repel Carpenter Bees
If carpenter bees become annoying, then you must get rid of them. However, since these bees are important for pollination, it’s best to drive them away than use deadly measures. Here is how you can repel carpenter bees:
- Paint your wood with a polyurethane paint. Remember, carpenter bees like untreated wood.
- Pour some almond oil into the nests.
- Plug the nest entrances with wood dowels that have been coated in carpenter’s glue.
- Spray the entrances with a citrus spray. You can make this by boiling a citrus fruit (lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime) in a pot and transferring the solution into a spray bottle.
- Use a vacuum cleaner to suck the carpenter bees out of their nests. Wear protective clothing and do this at night when the bees are in the nests.
- Set-up a soundbox or boombox next to the nests. These bees hate loud sounds.