Carpenter bees are fascinating insects with some unique features. Known for their wood-boring habits, they often spark curiosity about their honey-making abilities.
Unlike their distant relatives, the honey bees and bumble bees, carpenter bees are considered “solitary bees,” which means they do not form colonies with worker bees to maintain a nest or care for offspring.
The female carpenter bees feed on plant nectar, construct new tunnels, and care for their young on their own.
Due to their solitary nature, carpenter bees do not produce honey in the same way honey bees and bumble bees do.
While they consume nectar and pollen, they do not store it in large quantities as honey. As a result, carpenter bees do not make honey as we know it from honey bees.
Carpenter Bees: A General Overview
Species and Identification
Carpenter bees are solitary bees characterized by their large size and shiny, black abdomen. There are several species, with the most common being Eastern carpenter bees.
- Large size (approx. 0.75-1 inch long)
- Shiny and black abdomen
- Thorax covered with yellow fuzz
- Females have black faces and a dense brush of black hairs on their hind legs
- Males have yellow faces
Eastern carpenter bees are excellent pollinators of eggplant, tomato, and other vegetables.
Comparing Carpenter Bees and Honey Bees
|Social, with thousands
|Active pollen gathering
|Rare, females only
|Yes, worker bees event
Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees due to their similar appearance. However, carpenter bees have a shiny black abdomen, whereas bumblebees have a furry abdomen with yellow or white bands.
Furthermore, while honey bees are generally more aggressive and can sting multiple times, carpenter bee stings are rarer and only occur with females.
While both carpenter bees and honey bees are pollinators, they differ in the way they pollinate plants.
Carpenter bees use a method called buzz pollination, while honey bees actively gather pollen.
Lastly, unlike honey bees, carpenter bees do not produce honey.
Do Carpenter Bees Make Honey?
Nectar Storage and Consumption
Carpenter bees, unlike honey bees, are solitary insects that do not form colonies with worker bees to maintain a nest or care for offspring.
As a result, they have a different approach to storing and consuming nectar. Carpenter bees primarily feed on nectar and pollen, which they collect from flowers.
- Pros: Important plant pollinators
- Cons: No honey production, create structural damage in wood
Honey Production Absence
Carpenter bees differ from honey bees in the following aspects:
|Live in colonies
|Directly consume nectar and pollen
|Transform nectar into honey
|Tunnel in wood
|Build honeycomb cells in hives
Due to their solitary lifestyle, carpenter bees do not have the need nor the ability to produce honey.
Honey production is a result of honey bees’ unique social structure, where they store nectar sugars in honeycomb cells to feed the colony. Honey bees transform nectar into honey through a process that involves:
- Evaporation of excess moisture content
- Fermentation with the help of enzymes
To summarize, carpenter bees are solitary insects that directly consume nectar and pollen from flowers, without any honey production.
Their habits and lifestyle are distinct from those of honey bees, which produce honey to support the needs of their colony.
Carpenter Bee Biology and Behavior
Nesting and Reproduction
Carpenter bees are solitary insects that don’t have hives like honeybees. They create nests in wood by excavating galleries to provide safe zones for laying their eggs.
Examples of nesting locations include eaves, wooden beams, and porch rails 1. Some key features of their nests are:
- Presence of a single entry hole
- Tunnels excavated within the wood
- Divided chambers for storing eggs and food 2
Diet and Pollination Patterns
Carpenter bees are important pollinators in the ecosystem, as their diet consists of pollen and nectar obtained from flowers. Some of the characteristics of their feeding habits include:
- Preference for open-faced flowers
- Use of their hairy bodies to collect pollen
- Ability to pollinate multiple types of flowers 3
A notable behavior of carpenter bees is buzz pollination, a method where they dislodge pollen by vibrating their wings at a high frequency4.
They not only contribute to the growth of different plants in the garden but also provide food for predators such as woodpeckers and mites 5.
Despite not producing honey or forming colonies, carpenter bees are essential pollinators that play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
By understanding their nesting and feeding habits, we can better appreciate their contributions to our gardens and the environment as a whole.
Carpenter Bee Impact on Humans and Ecosystems
Structural Damage and Prevention
Carpenter bees are known for causing structural damage to wooden structures, such as homes and decks, by tunneling into softwoods. They prefer:
One way to prevent damage: Apply a citrus spray or paint the surfaces of the wooden structures.
Carpenter Bees as Pollinators
Carpenter bees, like honeybees and bumble bees, are important pollinators in the ecosystem. They are efficient in pollinating plants such as:
- Softwood trees
Comparison table between carpenter bees, honeybees, and bumble bees:
|Shiny black abdomen
|Large, hairy body
|Damage to structures
|May attack if threatened
|May attack if nest is threatened
Carpenter bees’ key characteristics:
- Belong to the Hymenoptera family
- Part of the Apidae species
- Non-aggressive, but can cause structural damage
- Males can have a yellow face while females have a black face
While carpenter bees don’t produce honey like honeybees, their role in pollinating plants is crucial for maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Homeowners should be aware of their potential negative impact and take necessary steps to prevent any structural damage.
Carpenter Bee Control Methods
Natural Predators and Pests
Carpenter bees (Xylocopinae) are non-aggressive to humans and spend most of their time pollinating flowers and gathering pollen.
Although they don’t form complex colonies like honeybees, they can cause damage to wooden structures due to their nesting behavior.
Predators such as birds and bee-eaters can help in controlling the carpenter bee population. Some examples of natural predators include:
- Wasp parasitoids
Chemical and Non-Chemical Solutions
There are several solutions to reducing carpenter bee damage and preventing further infestation in wooden structures. Some common methods are:
- Fill holes with wood putty: Sealing the holes created by carpenter bees using wood putty can prevent further nesting and discourage new bees from inhabiting the area.
- Bee houses: Providing an alternative nesting place like a bee house can encourage carpenter bees to nest away from the wooden structures in your home.
- Chemical treatments: Applying chemical insecticides specifically formulated for carpenter bees can help deter and eliminate these insects. However, there could be possible risks and environmental impacts.
Pros and Cons:
|Fill holes with wood putty
|Non-toxic, inexpensive, easy to apply
|May not fully deter new bees
|Eco-friendly, promotes pollination
|Requires maintenance, may not attract all bees
|Effective in reducing infestations
|Potential risks to environment, other insects
Remember that carpenter bees are important pollinators and their aggression levels are low. However, taking steps to reduce their damage to wooden structures is still essential.
Consider using a combination of the above control methods to ensure effective results while minimizing harm to these beneficial insects.
In conclusion, carpenter bees do not make honey. The article sheds light on their solitary nature, distinctive characteristics, and vital role as pollinators, while also addressing the potential structural damage they can inflict.
By exploring control methods and emphasizing ecological balance, the article provides a well-rounded perspective on coexisting with these essential yet often misunderstood insects.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about carpenter bees. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Tent Caterpillar, Carpenter Bee and Emerald Moth
We live in Southwestern Louisiana, in the “Prairie” region. A small, green moth was resting on the ceiling of our patio. It was no more than 3/4 of an inch in wingspan, and was resting there for several hours.
We could not find an exact match in any of the moths sections, and were wondering what it may be. Also attached are some pretty photos of an Eastern Tent Caterpillar (I think), and a neat close-up of a Carpenter Bee.
We love to look at your website, and have spent many hours together exploring it since we came across it. Thanks for your time, and thanks for a great site!
Melissa and Jody Glasscock
|Eastern Tent Caterpillar
Hi Melissa and Jody,
Thanks for your photos of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum and Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa species. Your moth is a species of Geometrid in the Subfamily Geometrinae, the Emeralds.
Letter 2 – Southern Carpenter Bee
Subject: hovering green fly
Location: south florida
March 4, 2014 4:54 pm
greeting and salutations!
it took me about 100 shots but I finally was able to get a decent photo of this hovering fly. there were several at the location and they would bumble around each other in small tight circles. the location is central south florida. growing up we always had these flies. I don’t think we ever had a name for them. do you know what it is?
Signature: many thanks! -cassi lou
Dear cassi lou,
This is a Carpenter Bee, and we suspect that based on the golden eyes and the behavior you describe, which sounds like that of a male Carpenter Bee staking out territory and waiting for a mate, this is indeed a male Carpenter Bee. It sure looks like this gorgeous Xylocopa micans or Southern Carpenter Bee that is pictured on BugGuide.
Letter 3 – Sonoran Carpenter Bee from, we suppose, Hawaii
Subject: First time to see this kind of bee
Location: Flowers on the backyard of the house & also on the farm
November 13, 2014 1:16 pm
Can you identify what kind of bee is this please? Never saw something like this before! Mahalo! 🙂
Signature: L. Rocknash
Dear L. Rocknash,
We are guessing by your greeting and closing that you are from Hawaii. This is a male Carpenter Bee, and we learned on BugGuide that the Sonoran Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa sonorina, a non-native species, can be found in Hawaii. Females are black and males a beautiful golden color. This image from FlickR depicts a male Sonoran Carpenter Bee in Hawaii.