Carpenter Bee

Actual Size: ½ ” –  1”

Characteristics: Large, black and yellow; shiny hairless abdomen

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: They do not live in nests. Instead, females bore holes through soft wood to lay eggs in.

Habits:

  • These bees are solitary and do not live in colonies like other stinging insects
  • Bees prefer to attack soft unfinished wood that is greater than two inches thick
  • Carpenter bees hibernate in vacant nest tunnels during the winter

Carpenter Bees in Illinois & Indiana

Generally black in color and 1/4 to 1 inch in length, these bees are often mistaken for bumblebees. The main difference is that carpenter bees are solitary and do not build hives. These bees get their name from their habit of boring into wood, creating chambers to raise their young. Along with bumblebee queens, carpenter bees are the largest native bees in the United States.

Carpenter bees can be found across the nation and are common in the Illinois and Indiana area. Carpenter bees do not eat wood but cause damage to structures by excavating tunnels in wood, particularly in lumber that is dry and weathered.

Carpenter Bee Habitat

Carpenter bees are not social insects and create individual nests in trees, eaves, or sides of structures. Males and females overwinter in old nest tunnels and emerge in the spring to mate. The mated female selects a suitable piece of wood for nest construction while the male spends most of their time hovering near nest sites. The female excavates a gallery using her mandibles, furnishes her nest with “bee bread” (a mixture of pollen and regurgitated nectar), deposits an egg, and closes the cell with chewed wood pulp. A carpenter bee infestation is usually detected by observing a large amount of sawdust and pollen on the ground below the area being chewed and excavated. 

Carpenter Bee Behavior, Threats, & Dangers

While the male carpenter bee does not possess a stinger, it can be very aggressive when it comes to defending its nest. The female carpenter bee, on the other hand, has a stinger but will only sting when provoked or threatened. If a person is stung by a carpenter bee and is allergic to bee venom, they should seek immediate medical attention.  Although carpenter bees can be helpful pollinators, they can cause significant damage to structures. Windowsills, wooden siding, decks, railings, outdoor furniture, and fences can be attacked. While the damage to wood from the excavation of individual carpenter bees may be slight, the activities of numerous bees over many years can result in considerable destruction.

In the case of an unmanageable carpenter bee problem, always contact your local bee control experts.