Carpenter bee next to hole in wood.

Everything You Should Know About the Eastern Carpenter Bee


Carpenter bees are large, black and yellow bees frequently seen in spring hovering around the eaves of a house or the underside of a deck or porch rail. They are most often mistaken for bumble bees, but differ in that they have a black shiny tail section. The carpenter bee is so-called because of its habit of excavating tunnels in wood with its strong jaws. The round, half-inch diameter entrance holes are usually found on the underside of a board. A tell-tale trace of coarse sawdust is often found on the surface beneath the hole. Wooden decks, overhangs and other exposed wood on houses are prime targets. Painted and treated woods are less preferred, but even that may not make your wood immune to attack.

Unpainted or stained cedar, cypress and redwood shingles and siding are also attacked despite their pest-resistant reputations. Carpenter bees, like their distant relatives, the carpenter ants, differ from termites, in that, they do not consume the wood as food. They simply excavate tunnels for nesting sites.

The female does all the work; she constructs the nesting site, she provisions the nest chambers with food for the developing young and deposits a single egg in the prepared chamber.

From the egg, then larva, the new adult bee will emerge in the late summer and begin to feed on pollen from flowering plants. As the fall and winter season approaches, the newly emerged adult carpenter bee will return to the safety of the wooden chamber to spend the winter.

In the spring, depending on temperature, the adult carpenter bee will emerge and the female and males will mate. After mating, the female begins to construct a nest in the same wood where she spent the winter. She may continue the excavation of the same nesting site or she may choose another spot in the same or close-by wood to construct her nest.

While the female is busy constructing a nest, the male can be seen buzzing-around in the same area. The male will “hover” and fly back and forth near the female protecting the nest site and the female itself. If people get too close to where the female is ‘working” the male carpenter bee will act very aggressive and threatening in an attempt to intimidate anyone entering his “territory”. The male carpenter bee cannot sting or bite; his behavior is only a “bluff,” but it does work!

Mike Deutsch MS, BCE
Urban Entomologist
Arrow Exterminating Company, Inc.

WOOD You, Could You, Let Me BEE? Serving Long Island and surrounding areas

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