What are carpenter bees?
Carpenter bees are found throughout the United States. The most common and frequently encountered are large carpenter bees, which resemble bumble bees. Carpenter bees have shiny black dorsal abdomen surfaces, while bumble bees have yellow and black hairy abdominal surfaces.
What is their behavior and habitat?
The carpenter bee is unique because it nests by boring holes into any dead wood that is available, be it a house, deck, fence, overhang, or windowsills. Although the holes may only appear to be a couple inches deep, they don’t stop there.
After initially boring into the wood, the carpenter bee will make a 90 degree turn, tunneling an additional 6 inches to 4 feet. These tunnels serve as eggs chambers. After the initial tunnel is bored, they often bore many more branches off the original. A chewing noise may be observed several feet from where the bees excavate their galleries.
After the nest is established, the female carpenter bee will forage for food. It is common to see the female buzzing around azaleas, daffodils, and pansies.
Male bees also hang around flowers, although they are looking for potential mates. If someone walks by, the male bee will become curious and start buzzing around the person. This often has the appearance of an “attack”; however, male bees have no stingers. Female carpenter bees do have stingers, but have no interest in stinging people.
What is the biology of carpenter bees?
Carpenter bees become active when temperatures warm up to the 70s. Mating usually occurs in April and is accompanied by a strange “bobbing dance” performed by the males. The females prepare a series of brood cells in the tunnels, providing each with food (“bee bread” – a mixture of pollen and nectar), an egg, and a partition of chewed wood. Most females produce 6 to 8 young. The larvae develop from May to August and then emerge in September. The earliest bee to hatch must make its way through the partition in which it is sealed and then cut through all the other partitions that his tunnel-mates are in.
What do they eat?
Despite the fact that carpenter bees appear to eat wood, they do not. Instead, they prefer the old bee standby, pollen.