Why are they called carpenter bees? Do they build furniture? Construct house frames? No, but carpenter bees sure love wood! So much so that many people know them by their nickname: wood bees.
Carpenter bees are tied with bumblebee queens as the largest bees in North America. They live up to three years and can grow to be one inch long. Some experts call them “gentle giants” because, despite their size, they rarely harm people.
In fact, male wood bees don’t even have stingers. Females do, but they only sting when highly agitated. Most often, carpenter bees are a much bigger threat to property than they are to you.
That’s because of the carpenter bees’ nesting habits. Unlike most other bees, they don’t live inside a hive with a colony. Instead, wood bees prefer to live alone. When they’re ready to lay eggs, the female bees will bore into a wooden object. They may choose trees, houses, or even the wooden swing set in your backyard!
Once they’ve built a tunnel in the wood, the bees will lay their eggs. They’ll feed their young there until the new bees are ready to fly off on their own. During the winter months, adult carpenter bees may return to these tunnels for shelter.
Have you ever seen a carpenter bee in your yard? Many of them have yellow thoraxes. This causes many people to confuse them with bumblebees. However, wood bees’ abdomens are dark and shiny. That’s one way to tell them apart from their fuzzy cousins.
In addition to hanging out around wooden structures, wood bees spend time in vegetable and flower gardens. Many people consider carpenter bees to be pests due to the havoc they can wreak on wooden structures. However, these critters also play a part in pollination.
Still, if the grown-ups in your family worry about damage from wood bees, there are some steps they can take. It’s difficult to keep them away from wooden structures. Some adults find it helps to treat the bees’ holes with insecticidal spray. Kids should never use these poisonous substances—leave the hard work to the grown-ups! There are also many natural methods for driving wood bees away. Some people try surrounding the area with sounds or scents the bees don’t like.
As long as they’re not tearing up your property, though, carpenter bees should be left alone. If you have a garden, they might help your plants grow. If you see wood bees in your yard, remember to give them plenty of space. They may be gentle giants, but it’s best not to take the risk of being stung.