Carpenter Bee Habits
Most species are solitary, with one bee digging a tunnel, laying eggs, foraging, and guarding the eggs. Once the eggs are hatched, the “primary” bee will die, leaving her offspring to recreate the cycle next spring.
Solitary carpenter bee “nests” (wooden tunnels) can be in close proximity to each other. There is a limited number of species who are social bees, but their nests are typically small.
Carpenter bees prefer soft, unfinished wood. Once a tunnel is begun, the bee will dig a certain length in, and then make a turn and continue digging, effectively making it easier to protect and guard her tunnel.
While the males are typically aggressive, they do not have stingers. Females have stingers, but are reluctant to use them unless provoked. Because most species are solitary, the danger of a lot of bees stinging a single target is almost zero.
Carpenter Bee Identification
The carpenter bee is a large bee, typically black and up to an inch in length. They can be confused for bumblebees due to their size, but unlike bumblebees, carpenter bees have smooth hairless abdomens. Carpenter bees do have stingers, and will sting antagonists.
Preventing and Eliminating Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees can be a real nuisance to homeowners because they tunnel into decks, porches and other wood structures. These bees will readily return to the same wood or location where they were born. Old nests are used year after year and offspring will often times construct nests alongside old nests. For this reason, a single nest one year will become two or three the following year. If carpenter bees are allowed to tunnel in the same structure year after year, the cumulative damage can be significant.
Once you find a carpenter bee tunnel or nest, a professional exterminator should be called, to determine whether to seal the hole, wait until any eggs are hatched, or removed the wood entirely. The site should be inspected every year for signs of recent or new damage.