Have you seen a large black bee buzzing around the wooden areas of your home? You’ve definitely spotted a carpenter bee. Carpenter bees are also called wood bees, and with good reason. They burrow holes in window sills, eaves, railings, fence posts and other wooden structures.
Most people will see a carpenter bee and mistake it for a bumble bee. They do look like the black version of a bumble bee, but lack the fuzzy hair and aposematic coloration. Carpenter bees lack hairs on their upper abdomen which appears shiny. The female has a blue-black, green or purple metallic sheen.
Do not let their large size and loud buzzing frighten you. Carpenter bees are very docile and hardly aggressive .They rarely sting humans. It would take a great deal of close contact to provoke them.
Only female carpenter bees can sting you. The tip of their abdomen is modified into an egg laying structure. Most stinging bees will die after stinging the victim. The barbed stinger gets stuck on the victim, disembowling the bee as it pulls away. Carpenter bees and bumble bees are the exception.
They have a smooth stinger, enabling the carpenter bee to sting several times without it being fatal to them. Fortunately, the female carpenter bee will most likely leave you after one sting and return to its nest.
If you are stung by a carpenter bee, It could be quite painful. It releases a venom called melittin, found in all bee venom. It may cause redness and swelling. A sharp pain might last for a couple of minutes. It is not life threatening and treated as any other bee sting. Seek immediate medical attention if allergic to bee stings.
What to know
Carpenter bees are a solitary bee species. The male carpenter bee cannot sting, although buzzes around the outside of the hole aggressively. He does this to protect the female while she lays eggs and situates the home.
The problem with carpenter bees is that they often come back to the same place year after year to nest. They can create enough holes and tunnels to weaken the structure of your home.
Carpenter bees play a key role in cross pollination. They feed their larvae a special kind of ‘bee bread, a combination of pollen and regurgitated nectar, foraged from different plants. The bread is made and stored inside the wooden burrows.
Most of the damage seen on the outside of homes is from woodpeckers, and not carpenter bees. Wood peckers prey on insect larvae. They are usually attracted to the sound made by the hatching larvae. They bore through the already dug out hole trying to get to the larvae.
The female carpenter bee excavates holes of about 13 millimetres in diameter and extends them from 100 milimetres to longer than 300 milimetres. The wood is not ingested during excavation and is ejected as coarse sawdust. Carpenter bees prefer lower density, unfinished softwood. An easy deterrent is to keep all your wood coated, painted or stained.