Carpenter Bee Signs and Identification

Carpenter bees get their common name from their habit of boring into wood to make galleries for the rearing of young. These are worldwide in distribution with 7 species occurring in the United States. They don't have a hive as honey bees but are solitary bees.The female Carpenter bee can get into small areas, boring holes.

Carpenter Bee Identification

carpenter bees Adult body length is about 1/2 to 1 inch (12.5 to 25 mm). They are robust, resembling bumble bees, with the top surface of abdomen mostly bare and shiny. Carpenter bees are mostly black, but some species may be green, or purplish in color. The male has a yellow face with a white dot on their heads. The females face is black.

The most common carpenter bee species is the Xylocopa virginica and may be confused with the bumble bee. The carpenter bees and the bumble bees have distinct nesting behaviors.

Difference Between Carpenter Bees and Bumble Bees

carpenter bee bumble bee They can resemble bumble bees, but the upper surface of their abdomen is bare and shiny black, while bumble bees have a hairy abdomen with at least some yellow markings.

Bumble bees don't nest in the wood, but rather on the ground.


Carpenter Bee

carpenter bee

Size: 1/4" to 1"

Colors: Carpenter Bees have a blue-black, green or purple metallic sheen with a shiny, relatively hairless abdomen.

Nests: Carpenter bees burrow in exposed wood to make nests. Carpenter bees get their name from their ability to drill through wood and nest in it. Their drilling will create a nearly perfect hole approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. You will see round holes and a coarse sawdust-like substance called frass underneath the holes. The holes are perfectly round and are about 3/8 inch in diameter. You may find old holes near the newer ones. Old nests can be used year after year by the carpenter bees. Their holes are usually located on the underside of any wood surface including siding, soffits, overhangs, decks, fence posts, fascia boards and window frames.

More signs are brownish or yellowish excrement stains below the entrance hole to the galleries.

Carpenter Bees are Solitary Bees- Carpenter Bees do not swarm, and live alone and rarely sting. Every female is fertile.They find or make holes to lay eggs in cells. They will seal the cells once the food is deposited for the baby carpenter bees. The female does not return to the sealed cells. Solitary bees are Carpenter Bees, Miner bees, Leafcutter bees, and Digger Bees. Solitary bees are more efficient in plant pollination than social bees.


Carpenter Bee Stings- Since Carpenter Bees are solitary bees, they are not known to sting often. The female Carpenter bee may sting if provoked.

Bumble Bee

bumble fee

Size: 3/4"- 1"

Colors: Bumble Bees are hairy with a fuzzy abdomen with soft fuzzy hair covering most of their bodies.They have bands of contrasting black and yellow coloring.

Nest: Bumble bees usually burrow in the ground. They can use abandoned rodent burrows and cavities beneath patio stones, piles of compost, and landscape timbers. They can occupy bird nest above ground. or in structural voids in outside walls or soffits of attics. They don't typically nest in structures like Carpenter bees

Bumble Bees are Social Bees. Bumble bees live in hives and make honey and wax in their hives. They will sting if the hive is in danger, but most often ignores humans. The queen is the only female that is fertile. The hive is ruled and is dependent on the queen.

Carpenter Bee Habits & Biology

Carpenter Bees are insects that overwinter in wood . They come out in the spring (usually April or May )and mate. The females lay their fertilized eggs in excavated cells/tunnles called galleries. Since Carpenter Bees pollinate, they provide the baby (larvae) carpenter bees with a ball of pollen. These larvae emerge in the summer as adults.

During the spring, the males seek out the females, hovering around females that found some unfinished wood, such as under eaves, railings, etc. The males are territorial and will confront you if you enter their territory, but they are incapable of stinging. Females have a stinger but are very docile. Females will nest in an all types of wood but prefer weathered and unpainted wood.

perfect hole made by carpenter antMale carpenter bees tend to be territorial and can buzz around you if you approach closely, sometimes hovering a short distance in front of your face or buzzing around your head. Since males have no stinger, these actions are just for show and intimidation.

  1. They first make a hole in the wood to lay eggs. The size is usually about 1/2" in diameter. The female carpenter bee can squeeze through incredibly tiny places to bore into untreated wood. She will often make excavate new tunnels for egglaying.
  2. They make a 90 degree turn, and form a gallery about 6 " long, but can be a couple feet long. The gallery contains cells in which the female lays eggs.




carpenter bee galleriesThe female use these galleries to lay eggs. A typical gallery has an entrance hole on the wood surface and continues inward for a short distance. It then turns sharply upwards and runs in the same direction as the wood. The female provides a ball of pollen on which an egg is laid. She closes the gallery by placing a mass of wood pulp;constructing a series of cells. This understanding of their construction is important when dusting carpenter bee holes.