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Carpenter Bees: The Fearless Pollinator

Starting about 2 weeks ago and continuing into the summer, people often notice large, black and yellow bees hovering around the outside of their homes. These are carpenter bees, named for their habit of excavating holes in wood, in order to rear their young. Carpenter bees prefer unpainted, weathered wood, especially softer varieties such as redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. Painted or pressure-treated wood is much less susceptible to attack. Common carpenter bee nesting sites include eaves, rafters, fascia boards, siding, wooden shake roofs, decks, wooden playsets and outdoor furniture.

Carpenter bee Bumble bee

Though seldom as destructive as termites, carpenter bees can cause cosmetic and structural damage. Female carpenter bees excavate new tunnels in wood for egg laying, or enlarge and reuse old ones. Significant damage can occur when the same pieces of wood are infested year after year. Holes in the wood surface also facilitate moisture intrusion, rot and decay. The most obvious damage comes when woodpeckers open up the carpenter bee galleries to access the bees larva

Damage caused by woodpeckers accessing carpenter bee galleries

Carpenter bees are much less likely to sting than wasps and other bees which live communal nests. Still, they can be scary, especially during spring mating and nest construction. Male carpenter bees can be especially intimidating, hovering in front of people who are around nesting sites. The males are harmless, however, since they lack the ability to sting. Female carpenter bees can sting and it is quite painful, however will only do so if handled or their nest is disturbed.

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