Carpenter Bees: Fact vs. Fiction

April 7, 2020

Carpenter bees: maybe you’ve heard of them, or maybe you’ve just puzzlingly encountered the structural damage they cause in the form of circular holes bore into wood, North Carolina specifically has two types of carpenter bees: the eastern carpenter bee and the southern carpenter bee. Whether you’re all-to-familiar with these unusual bees or have never even heard of them, one thing is certain: there is a lot of bad information floating around the internet about these peculiar bees that can make properly identifying them a challenge. We want to fix that. Let’s take a little time to dig into the truth about carpenter bees, and separate the fact from the fiction. 

Carpenter Bee on Flower

Carpenter Bees are the same as Bumblebees

Two carpenter bees on yellow flower

Fiction. Carpenter bees and bumblebees are two entirely different types of bees, although they are often mistaken for one another because they look very similar. Luckily, there are a few simple ways that you can tell the two apart: 

  • Bumblebees have hairy abdomens, sometimes with yellow markings. Carpenter bees have hairless, shiny abdomens. Southern Carpenter bees also have red fuzz on their abdomens, making them more distinctively different looking than bumblebees.
  • Carpenter bees have darting and diving flight patterns, while bumblebees fly in a more zigzag pattern.
  • Carpenter bees will tunnel into wood to lay their eggs (hence their namesake), but bumblebees use existing underground tunnels to nest.
  • Unlike a majority of bees, carpenter bees are actually very solitary insects; they do not nest together, as bumblebees do. 

Carpenter bees don’t sting

Fuzzy carpenter bee perched on a plant

Fact...sort of. Carpenter bee males don’t even possess stingers, but females do. However, female carpenter bees have to be severely provoked to even attempt stinging, unlike most other bees who will sting merely when they feel that their hives are threatened. Because carpenter bees are such solitary creatures and do not live in a larger hive, they have no hive to protect, making them extremely unlikely to sting. 

So, technically they do sting, but you would really have to tick one off to end up getting stung. Male carpenter bees will attack something or someone that they perceive to be a threat to their nest, but this is no more than an annoyance to humans because they do not sting or bite. 

Carpenter bees aren’t pollinators

Carpenter bee feeding on nectar from flower

Fiction. Carpenter bees are sometimes perceived as non-pollinators because they don’t live in hives like most bees do. This actually couldn’t be further from the truth. Carpenter bees are important pollinators, especially for these plants and veggies

  • Tomatoes
  • Cranberries
  • Eggplants
  • Blueberries 

Carpenter bees are also vital pollinators for a number of other vegetables and flowers. 

Carpenter bees eat wood

Carpenter bee burrowing into wood

Fiction. This might seem counterintuitive; carpenter bees leave holes in wood after all, don’t they? It’s true that they burrow into wood, but it is not actually their food of choice like, say, termites. Carpenter bees burrow into wood structures to lay eggs and nest, but they do not actually eat the wood; carpenter bees- like other bees- feed on plant pollen and plant nectar. 

While carpenter bees don’t actually eat wood, that doesn’t mean they don’t cause wood damage. While not as damage-inducing as other wood-destroying insects like termites and carpenter ants, carpenter bees can still inflict minor amounts of damage to the wood in and around your home, particularly when left to their own devices for a long period of time. If you’re concerned about a carpenter bee presence in your home or on your property, contact A-1 Pest Control to schedule a free estimate!


Previous Next

Schedule Your Free Estimate

Complete the form below to schedule your no obligation estimate with A-1 Pest Control.

or call (828) 539-1830