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About Carpenter Bees & Nesting Habits

Bees are bees, right? Actually no, not at all.

While carpenter bees may resemble bumblebees, they do have a few different characteristics and most importantly different nesting habits.

Let’s start with how to spot the difference between a carpenter bee and a bumblebee. To do so, you will need to see their abdomen.

There is a Visual Difference Between Carpenter Bees and Bumblebees

The carpenter bee has a bare and shiny black abdomen with some fur above the abdomen and below their head; bumblebees have a hairy abdomen with some yellow markings.  

As for the nesting habits, bumble bees typically nest within the ground while carpenter bees burrow into wood to lay their eggs. Specifically, soft, weathered and unpainted wood are perfect environments for carpenter bee nests, which is why we use untreated wood in our trap.

Another key habit which distinguishes carpenter bees from bumblebees is their living situations. Carpenter bees are considered solitary bees meaning they don’t work or live in colonies like bumblebees. Anything more than a female and male in one nest is considered a crowd. Think about how many more carpenter bee nests are needed compared to bumblebees that live with hundreds of other bees!

When the carpenter bees first emerge in the spring they have about 2-3 weeks to find a mate. Once a carpenter bee finds a mate, enough food and the perfect nesting area during the spring, they will burrow into the wood to create a hole and nesting galleries for the female to lay eggs. The female carpenter bee, the lead nest engineer, is identifiable by her solid black head. During that time the male carpenter bee hovers in the front of the nest guarding it from other male bees. The male carpenter bees are identifiable by the yellow dot on their forehead.

The male carpenter bees sole job is to protect their staked out territory from other carpenter bees and predators. If you have ever noticed a carpenter bee dive bombing your head when you’ve gotten close to a nest it is without a doubt the male. The female will spend all of her time in the construction of the nest and producing the young -- the nest may be as big as 2 – 4 feet per season!

Once the adult female and male have finished their task of creating offspring and protecting them in the nests, they will naturally die inside the nest.

Overtime, their nests can house multiple generations and can cause serious damage. Along with that, the holes attract hungry woodpeckers and rotting fungi. Don’t wait for spring to control and eliminate carpenter bees, they use the holes year round and tend to spend the winter in them. Order your bee traps now and experience effective bee control!

Important Side Note: Carpenter bees do play a role in the pollination of plants. They are not the same heavy duty pollinator that a honey bee is, but they do contribute a bit to the pollination effort. If you are looking for a way to promote their pollination and lure them away from your wooden structure check out our bee lodges!