Carpenter Bee

  • Actual Size: ½ ” to  1”

    Characteristics: Large, black and yellow; shiny hairless abdomen

    Legs: 6

    Antennae: Yes 

    Habitat: They do not live in nests. Instead, females bore deep holes through softwood and deposit their eggs inside


    • Do not live in nests and colonies like other bees.
    • Do not eat wood, but cause damage by boring into decaying or weathered wood.
    • Male carpenter bees lack a stinger but are very aggressive.

Carpenter Bees in South Carolina

The carpenter bee is a large, robust bee that bores tunnels into the untreated wood of structures. Generally black in color and 1/4 to 1 inch in length, these bees are often mistaken for bumblebees. Carpenter bees resemble bumblebees, but are solitary and do not build hives. The upper surface of their abdomen is bare and shiny black, while bumblebees have a hairy abdomen with at least some yellow markings. This type of stinging bee gets its name from its habit of boring into the wood like a carpenter.

Carpenter Bee Habitat

The female carpenter bee begins her nest by drilling a perfectly round entrance hole (about 1/2 inch diameter) into the wood. When the tunnel is about 1 inch deep, the bee turns at right angles and tunnels with the grain of the wood. Bees prefer to attack soft unfinished wood that is greater than two inches thick.

Carpenter bees hibernate in vacant nest tunnels during the winter. As the weather warms in spring, adult bees emerge and mate. Males die after mating, while females construct “brood chambers.” Females place a ball of food made of pollen and nectar into each chamber. She then lays an egg and seals the chamber shut. Eggs hatch within a few days, and 5 to 7 weeks later, the young bees reach adulthood. Carpenter bees typically live for about one year.

Carpenter Bee Behavior, Threats, & Dangers

Because they look like bumbles bees, which do sting, carpenter bees evoke a great deal of concern. Males can be aggressive, but are harmless and cannot sting as they lack a stinger. Female carpenter bees do possess a stinger but seldom use it unless they are handled or provoked. Carpenter bees can be a real nuisance to homeowners because they tunnel into decks, porches, and other wood structures. These bees will readily return to the same wood or location where they were born.

Old nests are used year after year and offspring will often times construct nests alongside old nests. For this reason, a single nest one year will become two or three the following year. If carpenter bees are allowed to tunnel in the same structure year after year, the cumulative damage can be significant. In the case of an unmanageable carpenter bee problem, contact a bee control expert.

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