Carpenter Bees

Honey Bees vs. Carpenter Bees

Worried about a large buzzing creature by your house? Depending on who you are, the sight of a bee floating around your home can either be… A. a satisfying reassurance that your plants are likely being pollinated or… B. a panic inducing living nightmare born from the fear of being aggressively attacked by a relentless and evasive little “predator.” (If it´s the latter you´re definitely not alone, but keep reading by all means) What if that bee was about an inch larger than the standard honey bee and was hovering near the wooden eaves of your home? In this instance, you´re likely seeing a carpenter bee. It´s very important to note the difference….
Female Worker Carpenter Bee on Yellow Flower

Female Worker Carpenter Bee on Yellow Flower

Honey bees tend to become very aggressively protective over their hive, which could lead to physical injury; whereas the carpenter bee prefers to lead a much more solitary life by drilling lengthy tunnels into wooden structures, rarely attacking anything without extreme provocation. So the difference really lies in the fact that the typical honey bee could pose a health and safety hazard, while the carpenter bee presents much more of a structural risk than anything else. Not to say that the two don´t have their similarities. Like all other bees, the carpenter bee does play a very important role in our eco system.

Carpenter Bees and Our Eco System

As they take pollen and nectar from the many open blooms that they frequent, they also distribute it amongst the other flowers, thus initiating fertilization and seed formulation. Physically, carpenter bees are roughly about one inch long with a smooth, shiny abdomen. Their coloring is typically darker (IE : black with a slight blue-ish hue) but males of some species can appear to be more golden than others.
Nice frontal view of the male Valley Carpenter Bee

Nice frontal view of the male Valley Carpenter Bee

Normally, if you do see a male, you´ll see him bravely buzzing near his nest, occasionally stalking or approaching nearby animals… You´ll never see him sting anything though. He´s all talk. Males aren´t equipped with a stinger, and females, though certainly capable, are usually very docile. It´s unlikely that you´ll ever be stung by a female carpenter bee unless you take it upon yourself to handle one directly or provoke it beyond reason. Fancy that, huh? So if you were one of the aforementioned “bee-a-phobes,” you can rest a little easier knowing that these guys aren´t out to get you. These bees earned their name by means of their nesting habits, which are fascinating. Where they live… A female will spot a fresh piece of wood free of rot or mold and begin “drilling” an unsightly but functional tunnel system complete with separate rooms, or “cells” for each of her offspring. She´ll continue to drill until somewhere between 6 to 10 cells have been hollowed out.
This is the nest of carpenter bees in an old tree.

This is the nest of carpenter bees in an old tree.

In each of the separate cells, she´ll deposit a single egg along with enough food to provide nourishment to sustain it as it matures to adulthood. Generally this homemade meal consists of freshly gathered pollen and plant nectar and is known as “Bee Bread.” Once the cell is constructed, the food is deposited, and the egg has been carefully placed, she seals off the room by cementing wood chips around the entrance. However, as fascinating and beneficial as these creatures are, they can also pose a risk to your home.

Carpenter Bees and Your Home

They tend to target fresh, unpainted wood and can compromise the structural integrity of any piece of wood that they may commandeer and reside in. Furthermore, though the average carpenter bee´s life cycle doesn´t last longer than one year, it´s not uncommon that a new generation will reoccupy previously inhabited tunnels and expand them beyond what they were previously, which as you can imagine, can only create further problems. Imagine how much weight the support beam of a deck or canopy could support if it had several lengthy holes drilled through it over the course of a few years. That´s clearly something that merits your immediate attention. But that´s why we´re here. If and when you notice that ½ inch thick entrance hole anywhere on your home, we should be the first people you call. We´re happy to take care of you.
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