Carpenter bees are quite different from bumblebees and common honeybees. Carpenter bees are named for their nesting behavior, which involves burrowing into dead wood material, including structural wood of homes and other buildings. Here’s how you can identify carpenter bees and signs of an infestation!
Carpenter Bee vs. Honeybee vs. Bumblebee
Carpenter bees are about ½ to 1 inch long, similar to bumblebees, while common honeybees are typically ¾ inches long.
Carpenter bees can be black, green, or purple, while bumblebees always have fuzzy bands of yellow and black. Honeybees have heads and legs that are black with a pale yellow thorax and an abdomen that alternates between dark and orange-yellowish bands.
Carpenter bees have shiny, hairless abdomens with a clear separation between body segments. Bumblebee bees are fluffy, and their body segments are not easily distinguishable. Honeybees have furry thoraxes with smooth abdomens.
The average honeybee life cycle is only about 40 days, and the bumblebee’s average lifespan is about 28 days. Male carpenter bees have a lifespan of about one year and die shortly after mating. Female carpenter bees can live for two or more years and continue using the same nest from previous mating seasons.
Carpenter bees carve out their nests in the dead softwood of trees, homes, and other structures. Bumblebees nest underground and are rarely found in structures. Honeybees nest in hives with visible combs filled with small cells.
Male carpenter bees don’t have stingers, while female carpenter bees have stingers but rarely sting unless threatened. Bumblebees are generally focused on nectar gathering and don’t sting unless physically touched or if their nest is disturbed. Honeybees sting if the hive is threatened or physically touched, but they rarely attack out of aggression.
Carpenter Bee Nesting Cycle
Male carpenter bees will follow their female counterparts in early spring to attempt mating. After mating, male carpenter bees die while females excavate new tunnels or expand tunnels from previous years. When mating is successful, they build or expand their nests and lay eggs. If they need to create a new nest, the carpenter bees bore a round hole into softwood about an inch deep, where they will turn to follow the wood grain and create a six to eight-inch-long tunnel. Along the tunnel, the bees construct individual brood chambers to place a ball of food made with pollen and nectar, lay an egg inside, and seal the chamber shut.
When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the pollen/nectar mix and emerges as an adult after four to seven weeks, depending on the geography and temperature. Newly hatched carpenter bees will immediately begin looking for food and spend the fall months storing pollen and nectar to prepare for winter, then return to their nest to overwinter. Carpenter bees can produce up to three generations during summer, with each female depositing six to eight eggs in each brood.
Signs of Infestation
There are a few signs of a carpenter bee infestation:
- Unlike termites, carpenter bees don’t eat wood. They deposit the wood shavings outside the nest as they excavate tunnels. Piles of residual wood and defecation outside the tunnel openings may indicate a carpenter bee infestation.
- Male carpenter bees will fly around the entrance of their nest, guarding against other flying insects and predators. If you see numerous bees around your home’s doors, windowsills, decks, shingles, etc. but don’t see a visible hive, they may be a carpenter bee nest.
- Carpenter bees will go in and out of holes in the wood from early spring through late summer in colder climates. They appear to vanish when the weather turns cold as they overwinter in colder climates. In warm, southern climates, you may see carpenter bees year-round.
I have a carpenter bee infestation…what do I do?!
If you are in the Las Vegas Valley, call Bee Masters of Las Vegas! Our team of excellent bee masters provides live bee removal services, plus repairing any damage done by bees. If you suspect you have a carpenter bee infestation, call us today!