Carpenter Bees can be found across the United States, and 7 different species can be found within the U.S. It can often be confused with a bumble bee because of its fuzzy body and yellow markings. However, carpenter bees’ abdomens are bare and shiny. Unlike many other species of bees, carpenter bees to not live in nests or with colonies. Females will nest in a wide range of wooded areas, but tend to prefer weathered and unpainted wood. Nesting sites may also depend on the species. Valley carpenter bees prefer decayed oak, eucalyptus, and other hardwoods. The California carpenter bee prefers cedar and redwoods. The holes that they drill are referred to as a “gallery.” Male carpenter bees are more aggressive than females, and will hover in front of a human’s or animal’s face. However, male carpenter bees do not have stingers and use the hovering merely as a warning sign. Females do have stingers, but rarely use them.
During the winter, carpenter bees will become dormant and stay in abandoned galleries. They will then mate in the early spring and begin to construct nests to lay their eggs in. Females will reuse an old gallery, rebuild and extend an old gallery, or create a new one entirely. Typically, the gallery will be about 4-6 inches in diameter, but can extend up to 10 feet long if it is being rebuilt. The female will drill these galleries and lay one single egg in each, usually about 5-6 galleries. There the eggs will stay for about 36 days until they are fully developed.
Carpenter Bees can be considered a wood destroying insect, and if left alone for long periods of time they cause great damage that may be costly to repair. While they rarely attack painted wood, it is good to be aware of the wood around your home and if carpenter bees may want to nest there. Being proactive is the only way to prevent serious damage.