12 April 2021
On sunny April days you may see a big bee hovering in the open, chasing other bees, or patrolling near a wooden structure. It looks like a shiny black bumblebee, but it’s not.
Eastern carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica), like bumblebees, are solitary and docile. They don’t build hives and rarely sting. In April and May carpenter males compete for mates and the females look for wood where each will drill a gallery and lay her eggs.
You can tell the difference by sight. Carpenter bees (left) have black abdomens that shine in sunlight. Bumblebees (right) have fuzzy black or yellow abdomens that don’t reflect light.
Here’s what a female sounds like as she examines a wooden railing. She is so docile that the person can get quite close to film her.
The female is looking for bare or distressed wood — not painted or treated — where she will drill a hole as described in this video. She doesn’t eat the wood. She just drills it.
Carpenter bees put fallen logs to use. Here they are in their natural setting. I have never seen this many bees near a human structure.
So … paint your house and carpenter bees will leave it alone. Meanwhile if you see carpenter bee holes in unpainted wood, this video from Clemson University tells you what to do: Carpenter Bees — Millie Davenport, Clemson University.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons and Chuck Tague)