California Carpenter Bee (Western Carpenter Bee) Identification and Removal

Identifying carpenter bees can be challenging as their appearance may vary depending on your location. As a pest control technician with twenty years of experience, I have encountered numerous infestations of carpenter bees, including the California variety which presents similar characteristics.

The species of carpenter bee found in California is very different from the common carpenter bee you would find elsewhere.  This might get you confused on what type of insects you’re seeing flying around your property. Well, let’s jump right and talk about everything related to the California carpenter bee!

What Is A California Carpenter Bee?

The California Carpenter Bee belongs to the order Hymenoptera and genus Xylocopa which is one of many species of carpenter bees.

Like most bees, the California Carpenter bee is a beneficial insect, capable of pollinating the flowers of different plant species found in the desert and woodland parts of California. They feed on the nectar found in flowers. 

What Does the California Carpenter Bee Look Like? 

California carpenter bees look different than typical carpenter bees elsewhere in the country. This can lead to some confusion on what type of insect you’re actually seeing around your home!

Big Black Bees In California

The most prominent color of these bees is black with some greenish or bluish reflections. They are large, shiny insects that appear harmful but really are docile. The only reason why a California carpenter bee will sting anyone is if they get agitated. That being said, carpenter bees generally don’t sting humans.

california carpenter bee

As regards the males, you’ll find see some light hairs on their abdominal segments and dorsal prothorax (pronotum). One striking feature that differentiates the male California carpenter bee from its female counterpart is the light markings found on the abdomen.

Habitat Of The California Carpenter Bee

The nests where they live are made in dry softwoods such as Yucca, Walnut, eucalyptus. California carpenter bees prefer wood that is good and not rotten to use as nesting material.

These bees bore holes into wood structures such as fence posts which can be found in houses. You can find them in your houses living inside holes. Apart from fence posts, they can also bore holes into the stumps of trees. The major purpose of the hole is for shelter especially when it is winter and also for laying eggs.

If you are curious if the holes you see around your home are caused by carpenter bees, try to take a look and look for carpenter bee droppings running down the side of your porch or exterior of your home.

Where Are California Carpenter Bees Located?

This species of bee is found mainly in the Western part of North America such as California, Utah, Arizona, Washington, Texas and is very abundant in Southern California and Central Valley.


California Carpenter bees has three different subspecies which differ in their geography and colouration. Below are the three subspecies;

  • Xylocopa californica arizonensis
  • Xylocopa californica diamesa 
  • Xylocopa californica californica 

The three subspecies listed above feed on different kinds of plant species. This means that they are polylectic. 

Xylocopoides californica arizonensis prefers to live in desert plants such as Cottonwood, Agave, and Yucca. Xylocopa californica diamesa prefers Yucca.

Management of California Carpenter Bee 

Though California carpenter bees are beneficial insects, they can cause great damage to the wooden structures found in your homes. Under such circumstances, having a bee trap will be very helpful.

The bees trap will make it easy for you to capture these bees. The base is made of wooden material, most especially soft plywood. This is because carpenter bees prefer to build homes in softwood compared to hardwood. Holes will be drilled at the base to serve as an entrance for the bees.

Also, the trap can be designed in such a way that the source of light is cut off immediately after the bee enters the hole. After you have caught the bees, it is up to you to take them far away from your home or get them a new bee home. You can also make your own carpenter bee trap!

You can also choose to drive them away instead of using a trap. After they have gone, cover the holes where they lived; this should be enough to send them away and make them seek shelter elsewhere. As well as spraying natural solutions around your porch will help to keep them away for good!


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