Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter-bee
  • Common Name(s): Carpenter Bee
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Apidae
  • Common Species: Xylocopa virginica
  • Commonly Confused With: Bumble Bees, Megachilid Bees

Characteristics

How to Identify?
Carpenter bees usually possess a furry yellow thorax (middle section of an insect) with a shiny black spot right in the middle. They also have a shiny black colored abdomen (back section of an insect). There are some different colored species, but the most common ones will exhibit the aforementioned traits. Males will have a yellow or white spot in the center of their face and are incapable of inflicting a sting.

Habitat

Where do they live?
Carpenter bees build their nests in dry, sound wood. They build galleries (tunnels/cells) in the wood in which they lay their eggs. The cells are usually packed with pollen and nectar before the eggs are laid.

Food Source

What do they eat?
The larval stages (juveniles) of these bees eat the material packed into the cells in which they are lain. The adults feed on the nectar of flowering plants. Some adults have a behavior where they ‘cheat’ the plant to get the nectar. Instead of sitting at the top of the plant to get nectar they sometimes can chew a hole in the side and avoid aiding in pollination altogether (this is called nectar robbery).

Activity

What do they do?
These insects can damage wood on or around homes. They usually do not go after painted, stained, sealed, etc. wood. They can cause structural damage if enough bees are present, but the biggest issue they cause is usually aesthetic damage. Females can sting, but stings are very, very rare! Unless you are holding the bee in your hands and shaking it around, a sting is unlikely. Males can appear more aggressive, especially during times of mating, but besides bumping into you or chasing you they cannot actually cause you physical harm.

Fun Fact

There is actually a species of carpenter bee that is a bright blue color, Xylocopa caerulea. While this species is not in the United States it is still beautiful and worth mentioning!

Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist

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