If you notice black or black and yellow bees burrowing into wood or wooded areas in your and near your home, you are probably looking at a carpenter bee. But what is a carpenter bee? And, more importantly, do carpenter bees sting?
Yes, female carpenter bees can sting. However, these bees are very docile and will most likely not sting you unless you try to poke, antagonise or handle them.
What is a Carpenter Bee?
A carpenter bee is a subspecies of bees that are very large. Sometimes these bees are over an inch big! They have almost all black bodies or they have black and yellow bodies.
Since they are very large in size, it is common for carpenter bees to cause alarm when you notice them near your home. Some carpenter bees have a black spot on their backs, making identifying them simple and quick.
Do Carpenter Bees Eat Wood?
Since carpenter bees are usually found near small piles of sawdust near holes in wood, it is common to think that these bees feast on the wood they burrow into. However, carpenter bees do not ingest or eat wood.
Carpenter bees eat nectar from flowers. They collect this nectar by going flower to flower in the spring and summer seasons, much like most other bee species.
Yes, carpenter bees are pollinators. Carpenter bees eat nectar from flowers and help carry pollen from one flower to the next while searching for food. They also make a special food called “bee bread” that they leave in their nests to feed their larvae when they hatch.
Bee bread is a regurgitated nectar for the larvae to eat once they hatch from eggs. It can also be called ambrosia.
How Long Do Carpenter Bees Live?
Carpenter bees have a long lifespan in the world of insects. These bees can live for up to 3 years!
Both the male and female of the mating pair will stay in the nest the female carpenter bee has made during their lifetime. They will often share the nest with their juvenile daughters as well, until it is time for these females to go out, find their own mates, and make their own nests.
Male carpenter bees rely on female carpenter bees for shelter, as male carpenter bees cannot make their own nests. Female carpenter bees use their strong mandibles and jaws to chew through dead, but not decaying, wood sources.
The tunnels they make over the years are impressive but extremely damaging to wood structures. If you notice carpenter bees nesting in or near your home, call a local beekeeper for instructions on what to do. They will often come out and safely remove and relocate the bees for you.
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Where Do Carpenter Bees Live?
Carpenter bees live in tiny burrows they make inside of wood. They hollow out perfectly round holes about the size of your finger to lay their eggs in. Do not try sticking your finger in these holes as the female carpenter bees can sting and will defend their nests.
Female carpenter bees will return to the same nesting spot year after year. They will spend most of their time inside the nest raising their young, while the male carpenter bees guard the opening.
Do Female or Male Carpenter Bees Sting?
Male carpenter bees cannot sting, as they do not have a stinger. Their large and unsettling size buzzing around and dive-bombing you, is usually enough for the male carpenter bee to ward off intruders.
But, if you’re able to see that a carpenter bee is male (and you’ll probably struggle to do so without it being static) then you can rest assured that it is unable to sting you.
Female carpenter bees, however, can sting you but will rarely do so.
They spend most of their time making their burrows and nests and the rest of the time with their young. If you were to poke your fingers into the carpenter bee’s nest entrance or if you tried to handle a carpenter bee, she would sting you.
Are Carpenter Bees Aggressive?
Carpenter bees are not aggressive unless provoked. Do not try to hold, touch, or poke them.
Carpenter bees are solitary bees, meaning they live alone with a mate in a nest they built themselves. Since they do not live in hives or large nests with multiple bees, stumbling upon a carpenter bee nest will not result in an angry swarm of bees trying to defend their home.
Male carpenter bees do not have a stinger and use their impressive size to ward off intruders and potential predators. Female carpenter bees spend almost all their time inside the burrows, so even though they can sting, it is rare that she is outside their nest to begin with.
Carpenter bees are the largest bees you will encounter in North America and Europe. Their massive size is enough to make humans wary and draw attention to themselves. However, carpenter bees are very docile creatures that keep mostly to themselves.
Female carpenter bees can sting, but spend most of their lives inside their nests, burrowing deeper and raising young. She will only sting if she is being handled, poked, or proded.
Male carpenter bees do not have stingers and defend their nests by dive bombing and flying at potential threats. Since these bees are huge, this technique works well for them.