What Attracts Carpenter Bees: Top Lures and Prevention Tips

Carpenter bees are fascinating creatures. They are a vital part of our ecosystem, as they help with pollination. However, these large bees are also known for causing damage to wooden structures by drilling perfectly circular holes to create nests. You might be wondering what exactly attracts these bees to certain areas.

One of the primary factors that lure carpenter bees is the presence of exposed wood. They find raw, untreated wood surfaces particularly enticing. By maintaining your wooden structures, such as painting or varnishing them, you can make your home less attractive to these bees.

Another factor that attracts carpenter bees is the availability of nectar and pollen from flowers. They feed on these, so having a garden full of flowering plants can also invite these buzzing pollinators. Understanding what attracts carpenter bees can help you prevent them from causing damage or alternatively, encourage their presence for pollination purposes.

Understanding Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are a type of solitary bee that build nest within wood structures. They’re often mistaken for bumblebees, but they have shiny black abdomens while bumblebees have hairy, black or yellow ones. Let’s explore the characteristics of both male and female carpenter bees.

Male Carpenter Bees:

  • Yellow faces
  • Unable to sting
  • Aggressive behavior, but harmless

Female Carpenter Bees:

  • Black faces
  • Possess a sting, but rarely use it
  • Collect pollen and construct nest

Carpenter bees are excellent pollinators and are attracted to various flowers and plants. Some examples include:

  • Eggplant
  • Tomato
  • Azalea
  • Cosmos

Now, let’s compare carpenter bees with bumblebees:

Feature Carpenter Bee Bumblebee
Nesting Solitary, within wood structures Social, underground
Abdomen Shiny black Hairy, black or yellow
Pollination Efficient, “buzz pollination” Less efficient, but still valuable pollinators

In summary, understanding the characteristics and behavior of carpenter bees, as well as their similarities and differences with bumblebees, will help you better attract and appreciate these valuable pollinators.

Life Cycle & Behavior

Carpenter bees are beneficial pollinators that appear during spring. These bees play a vital role in helping flowers bloom as they pollinate various plants. They’re mainly attracted to open-faced flowers where they seek nectar and pollen. Carpenter bees differ from other bees in that they don’t live in colonies, thus, each female is responsible for creating her nest.

In their search for suitable nesting sites, carpenter bees often make their homes in dead or decaying wood. During the nesting process, the female bee will lay eggs inside the nest, which eventually hatch into larvae. The life cycle of carpenter bees consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

The carpenter bee’s diet consists of:

  • Nectar from flowers
  • Pollen from flowers

Some key features of carpenter bees include:

  • Solitary behavior
  • Nesting in wooden structures
  • Four-stage life cycle

When comparing carpenter bees to other bees like the bumblebee, you’ll notice some differences, such as:

Feature Carpenter Bee Bumblebee
Body Appearance Large body, fewer hairs Large body, hairy
Nesting Location Wood structures, typically above ground Underground nests
Social Behavior Solitary Social, live in colonies

While carpenter bees are beneficial pollinators, it’s essential to be aware of their potential to cause damage to wooden structures as they create their nests. By understanding their life cycle and behavior, you can find ways to coexist with these important insects while preserving your wooden surroundings.

Nesting Habits

Nests and Tunnels

Carpenter bees are known for their unique nesting habits. They create nests by drilling holes and creating tunnels in wood. For example, they may choose to nest in trees, untreated wood surfaces, or softwood. This is because these materials are easier for them to excavate and establish their nests in.

When carpenter bees drill a hole, it typically looks clean and perfectly round, with a diameter of about half an inch. The tunnels they create can extend up to several inches in length and contain individual chambers for their eggs.

Ideal Nesting Materials

Carpenter bees generally prefer the following types of wood for nesting:

  • Softwood, such as pine, cedar, and redwood
  • Untreated wood, as it is easier to excavate

It is important to note that caring for your wooden structures can help deter carpenter bees. For example, treating wood surfaces with paint or varnish can make it less appealing for them to nest.

Wood Type Pros Cons
Softwood Easier for carpenter bees to excavate More susceptible to damage
Untreated Natural and untreated appearance Attractive to carpenter bees

To summarize, carpenter bees are attracted to softwood and untreated wood surfaces to create their nests. They drill clean, round holes and create tunnels for their eggs. By addressing these factors, you can reduce the chances of carpenter bees nesting in your structures.

Signs of Carpenter Bee Infestation

Carpenter bees can cause damage to your property when they decide to make their nests. Spotting the signs of an infestation early can help you control the situation. Here are a few key indicators of a carpenter bee problem:

Sawdust and debris: You may notice small piles of sawdust or debris beneath wooden areas where carpenter bees have burrowed. This can include deck railings, eaves, or fence posts. Pay attention to these spots, as they may indicate active infestation.

Holes in wood: Carpenter bees create circular holes in wood, about half an inch in diameter, to build their nests. Look for these telltale holes in common nesting areas, like unfinished or unpainted wood surfaces. You may also hear a buzzing sound coming from within the holes, signaling active carpenter bee activity.

  • Wood damage: Over time, carpenter bee infestations can cause significant wood damage as they expand their tunnels. This can weaken the structural integrity of the affected area, making it essential to address the issue promptly.

Here’s a quick comparison table of carpenter bee infestation signs:

Infestation Sign What to Look For
Sawdust Small piles of wood debris near wooden structures
Holes in wood Circular half-inch holes in unfinished or unpainted wood
Wood damage Weakened structure due to tunneling activity

By recognizing these signs, you can take action to control the carpenter bee infestation and prevent further damage to your property.

Differences between Carpenter Bees and Other Bees

As you explore the world of bees, it’s important to know the differences between carpenter bees and other bees, such as honey bees and bumble bees.

Carpenter bees are large, shiny black and yellow bees with a distinctive shiny black tail section. Unlike honey bees and bumble bees, carpenter bees don’t live in colonies. Instead, they create their nests by excavating holes in wood surfaces, and they eat flower nectar and pollen rather than honey source.

On the other hand, honey bees and bumble bees are known for their ability to produce honey. Honey bees are typically smaller and have a more slender abdomen than carpenter bees. They live in large colonies, and their hives are usually found in tree hollows or man-made structures like beehives source.

Bumble bees are another type of bee that closely resemble carpenter bees due to their large, hairy bodies. However, their nests can be found in the ground, where dozens of bees can live peacefully. Bumble bees are known for their black and yellow or black and white color patterns. They’re less aggressive than carpenter bees and will only attack when their nests are threatened source.

Here’s a quick comparison table to illustrate the differences:

Carpenter Bees Honey Bees Bumble Bees
Size Large Smaller Large
Color Black and yellow Brown and yellow Black and yellow/white
Nesting Wood Tree hollows/beehive Ground
Feeding Flower nectar and pollen Honey Honey

Remember that understanding these characteristics can help you identify the various types of bees and learn more about their behaviors and important roles in the ecosystem.

Controlling and Preventing Carpenter Bee Infestation

Carpenter Bee Traps

Carpenter bee traps are an effective way to catch these pests. They work by luring the bees into a small opening, where they become trapped and eventually die. Some popular DIY carpenter bee trap options include:

  • Wooden traps with a hole and mason jar
  • PVC pipe traps with a jar or bottle

Pros:

  • Non-toxic and pesticide-free
  • Reusable and easy to maintain

Cons:

  • May not catch all carpenter bees
  • Can be time-consuming to make and install

Professional Pest Control

Hiring a professional exterminator is another option for controlling carpenter bee infestations. Pest control companies can provide targeted treatments, like insecticides, and offer expert advice on prevention.

Pros:

  • Expert knowledge and experience
  • Targeted and effective treatments

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • May require multiple visits

DIY Home Remedies

Trying out some home remedies can also help you cope with carpenter bees. Examples include:

  • Spraying a mix of water, dish soap, and peppermint oil around affected areas
  • Applying diatomaceous earth to the entrance of tunnels

Pros:

  • Cost-effective
  • Environmentally friendly options

Cons:

  • May not be as effective as traps or professional treatments
  • Need to be reapplied frequently

Comparison Table

Approach Cost Effectiveness Environmental Impact
Carpenter Bee Traps Low to Moderate Good Low
Professional Control High Excellent Moderate
DIY Home Remedies Low Moderate Low to Moderate

By understanding the various methods of controlling and preventing carpenter bee infestations, you can make an informed decision that best suits your needs and preference.

Protecting Your Structures

Carpenter bees can cause damage to your wooden structures, like porches, decks, sheds, eaves, and more. To protect your buildings, you’ll need to take some preventive measures.

Choose the right materials

Opt for materials less attractive to carpenter bees. Examples include:

  • Composite materials
  • Vinyl
  • Hardwoods like oak and maple

Maintain and protect wood surfaces

Seal your wood surfaces regularly. You can:

  • Apply paint to cover wooden surfaces
  • Use varnish or a clear sealant

Monitor and repair damages

Inspect your structures routinely. Fix holes and other damages promptly. This helps maintain the structural integrity of your buildings.

In summary, protecting your structures from carpenter bees requires selecting less attractive materials, sealing wood surfaces, and regular monitoring and repair. By following these steps, you can prevent damage and keep your wooden structures intact.

Carpenter Bees in Gardens

Carpenter bees are attracted to gardens full of flowers and plants rich in pollen. Your garden can become a haven for these pollinators if you cultivate a diverse selection of flowers and herbs.

Some flowers that are particularly attractive to carpenter bees include lavender and lilies. Planting these flowers in your garden will not only add a splash of color but also provide a bountiful source of pollen for these bees.

A variety of herbs such as oregano, basil, and thyme are known to attract carpenter bees as well. Including these aromatic herbs in your garden will not only entice these pollinators but can also serve as a practical addition to your kitchen.

Carpenter bees are also drawn to fruit trees like plum and apple trees. Planting these trees in your garden not only provides shade and beauty, but they also offer a plentiful source of pollen that carpenter bees find irresistible.

To summarize, a diverse garden filled with flowers, herbs, and fruit trees will attract carpenter bees eager to collect pollen. By incorporating plants like lavender, lilies, oregano, basil, thyme, plum, and apple trees, you can create an inviting sanctuary for these essential pollinators.

Natural Deterrents for Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees can be a nuisance, but there are several natural deterrents that can help keep them at bay.

Mint is an excellent deterrent for carpenter bees. Planting mint around your home or using mint-infused products can discourage these bees from nesting in your area.

Citrus oil is another deterrent. Carpenter bees dislike the scent of citrus. Applying citrus oil to wood surfaces where these bees may nest can help deter them.

Almond oil and other essential oils can be effective as well. Mixing a few drops of almond oil or other essential oils like lavender, tea tree, or eucalyptus with water can create a repellent spray.

Vinegar can also be used to deter carpenter bees. Mixing equal parts of white vinegar and water, you can create a solution to spray on wood surfaces where the bees may nest.

Here are some benefits and drawbacks of using these natural deterrents:

Natural Deterrent Pros Cons
Mint Easy to plant, pleasant scent May need to be replanted annually
Citrus Oil Strong scent, easy to apply May need frequent reapplication
Essential Oils Variety of scents, easy to mix May need to test different scents
Vinegar Inexpensive, widely available Strong smell, may damage some surfaces

Remember to test these methods and see which one works best for your specific situation. Good luck in deterring those carpenter bees!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do carpenter bees sting?

Yes, carpenter bees can sting, but it’s rare and usually only occurs if they feel threatened. Female carpenter bees have the ability to sting, while males don’t. However, their stings are less painful compared to those of other bees like bumble bees.

What are carpenter bees attracted to?

Carpenter bees are attracted to untreated or exposed wood, which they bore into to create nests. They prefer softwoods like pine, cedar, and redwood. To prevent them from damaging your property, you can paint or treat exposed wood surfaces.

Do pheromones play a role in attracting carpenter bees?

Yes, pheromones are chemical signals that play a role in attracting carpenter bees to an area. They use pheromones to communicate with other carpenter bees for activities like mating and nesting.

How can I create an environment that discourages carpenter bees?

To discourage carpenter bees from nesting in your area, consider the following:

  • Paint or treat exposed wood surfaces
  • Remove rotting wood or dead trees from your property
  • Use insect-repelling plants like citronella, lemongrass, or eucalyptus
  • Install decoy bee nests to distract them from your wooden structures

Is it necessary to kill carpenter bees or can they be controlled in a non-lethal way?

Killing carpenter bees may not be the best solution, as they are important pollinators. Instead, opt for non-lethal control methods, such as:

  • Filling in existing nest holes after the nesting season
  • Using insect traps or repellents
  • Installing decoy bee nests to deter them from new spots
  • Hiring professional pest control services if infestations persist

Following these suggestions can help you manage carpenter bee issues effectively while preserving their role in the ecosystem.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Carpenter Bee from Malaysia

Subject:  It looks like a bee?
Geographic location of the bug:  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Date: 09/03/2017
Time: 12:19 AM EDT
Hello there. I came across this beautiful insect, which is the size of my thumb when I got back home. Sadly, I couldn’t get a photo of its full body, but it somewhat resembles a bee when it comes out from burrowing in the wood.
I was fascinated how it bore a hole, but I did not want to bother it. Again, it resembled a bee in flight and outside the burrow, since I got it to fly out. I checked on it later to see if it’s out of the burrow, but it returned to chewing wood.
How you want your letter signed:  Thank you for helping me identify this fascinating insect. I hope to hear from you in the near future.

Carpenter Bee

This is definitely a Carpenter Bee, and according to Anim Agro Technology:  “CARPENTER BEES (Xylocopa spp) or locally in Malaysia known as Lebah Tukang or Lebah Kayu are the largest bee species.”  The site has wonderful images and information.  Your Carpenter Bee might be Xylocopa aestuans, a species from nearby Singapore which is profiled on taxo4254.

Letter 2 – Digger Bee

Is this a bee?
September 7, 2009
This insect was photographed in in early September, it looks a lot like a digger bee but it’s eyes are brown and not green. I have searched the net and all of my bug books but can’t ID it! Help!
Thanks, Rhonda
Tucson, AZ

Carpenter Bee, maybe
Digger Bee

Hi Rhonda,
Our first inclination is that this is some species of Carpenter Bee, but it doesn’t match the images on BugGuide.  We will check with Eric Eaton who may be able to assist in the ID.

Correction from Eric Eaton
Daniel:
Wow, what a fantastic image of a very active bee, a female in the genus Centris, family
Apidae.  I hope Rhonda considers posting this to Bugguide, as we have few high-quality images of this genus.  Dr. John Ascher is an expert on bees, and he visits Bugguide frequently..  He could probably identify this specimen to species.  Centris bees are solitary, like the overwhelming majority of native bee species, each female digging her own nest burrow.
Eric

Daniel,
Thanks for the prompt reply- and thank you and Eric Eaton for the ID- wonder how he knew it is female, amazing! If you want to post this image to Bugguide, you have my permission to do so, if you need a higher res photo just let me know (please include photo credits). Thank you again for the help.
Rhonda Spencer

Correction courtesy of John Ascher
April 22, 2012
Centris rhodopus female

 

Letter 3 – Carpenter Bee from Uganda

Subject: Strange bugs in Uganda
Location: Jinja, Uganda
September 12, 2012 5:37 am
I found these in my yard in Jinja, Uganda. Much larger than what I’ve seen around my home in Georia, USA. I can’t find much info on insects in Uganda on the internet; hence my query. It is about 1.8” long. Thank You!

Carpenter Bee

This appears to be a Carpenter Bee

Thank you so much!  This will help me label my African bug collection.
Cheers!
Brad Smith
Uganda Technical Director

Letter 4 – Carpenter Bee from Saudi Arabia

Subject: carpenter bee
Location: Saudia Arabia- Madina
September 4, 2015 11:59 pm
Hi bugman!
I’ve found this female bee buzzing around my fluorescent tube light in early morning.
two of them were buzzing above a nearby dates palm tree, maybe they were examining the tree to make a nest or something.
sorry for the bad quality photos, I got the bee inside a plastic bag just to take a photo then released the little guy-gal- back outside.
can I get a more specified classification?
thank you for your works.
5/September/2015 6.40 A.M.
Signature: M.A

Carpenter Bee
Carpenter Bee

Dear M.A,
We agree that this looks like a Carpenter Bee, and based on images posted to Science Open, we believe it is a male
Xylocopa (Koptortosoma) aestuans (Linnaeus).  Science Open states:  “Male covered by dense yellow pubescence” and your second image indicates a yellow abdomen.  The Wiki Spaces site has an image supports that identification.

Carpenter Bee
Carpenter Bee

 

Letter 5 – Carpenter Bee from Hong Kong

Subject: Large blue Hong Kong fly
Location: Discovery Bay, south plaza park, Lantau, Hong Kong
March 4, 2017 7:55 pm
Hi,
I have been trying to identify a large, iridescent blue fly that I saw Saturday March 4th, in a park on Lantau, one of the islands in the Hong Kong diaspora. I have searched wikipedia and looked online but cannot identify it. This fly was much larger than most common house flies, and there were several in the vicinity. It was, at a guess, a little under 2 inches long.
Here is a photo. I’d be glad of any information you can offer.
Signature: Nufdriew

Carpenter Bee

Dear Nufdriew,
Unless they are wingless, most Flies can be identified to the correct order because they have a single pair of wings, hence the order name Diptera.  Your insect is a Carpenter Bee and it has two sets of wings.

Letter 6 – Carpenter Bee from Thailand

Subject:  Carpenter Bee from Bangkok, Thailand
Geographic location of the bug:  Nhong Bon, Bangkok, Thailand
Date: 05/31/2018
Time: 07:08 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I shoot these photos on May 27, 2018 in a park located in Nhong Bon District, Bangkok, Thailand.  It is a big black shiny bug with blue eyes and blue wings. When I found it, it laid on the road path and could not fly. A big red ant was attempting to harm it so I moved it to the tree nearby. I have never see this bug before but due to my research (from this site) It  possibly be a Carpenter Bee.  I’m so excited.
How you want your letter signed:  Prasyth P.

Carpenter Bee

Dear Prasyth,
We concur that this is a Carpenter Bee.  We are postdating your submission to go live to our site in mid-June while we are away from the office.

Letter 7 – Carpenter Bee from South Africa

Subject:  Please identify
Geographic location of the bug:  Westville (Ed. Note:  Presumably South Africa)
Date: 02/01/2019
Time: 06:22 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found this beautiful guy but not sure what it is?
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks Tammy

Carpenter Bee

Dear Tammy,
Is Westville in Canada, South Africa, the UK, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, MIssouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma or Pennsylvania?  Those are the choices Wikipedia provides.  We are going to guess South Africa.  We found matching images of the South African Carpenter Bee,
Xylocopa flavorufa, on both Alamy and FlickR.  It is also pictured on Discover Life and iNaturalist.

Yes South Africa. Thank you very much.
Never seen 1 before.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

4 thoughts on “What Attracts Carpenter Bees: Top Lures and Prevention Tips”

  1. Thank you for the identification guys, I thought male have larger eyes like flies.

    I was curious if they can make honey?
    although based on the small number of bees in borrows and the small area they dig, I don’t think so.

    Reply
    • According to BugGuide: “Burrow into wood, forming a series of chambers, typically 6-8. Each is provisioned with pollen (mixed with regurgitated nectar), a single egg is laid, and then capped with a disk of wood pulp. Chamber is sealed and adult does not return.” While they do not produce honey on the scale of domestic bees, nectar is gathered from blossoms and regurgitated into the nest as food for the larval bees.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for the identification guys, I thought male have larger eyes like flies.

    I was curious if they can make honey?
    although based on the small number of bees in borrows and the small area they dig, I don’t think so.

    Reply
  3. Hymenoptera (bees, flying ants, wasps, etc.) sometimes look like they only have a single pair of wings because the hind wings are usually small and are connected to the front wings by a row of little hooks that are diagnostic of the order. This set up has fooled me before, which is why I mention it here.

    Reply

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