Nature is laden with predators and prey across all dimensions. So it gets interesting when trying to compare the relationship between carpenter bees and other bee species. Carpenter bees spend their time pollinating and fighting but whether they pose any real danger to honey bees is a question that we intend to answer in this piece.
Do Carpenter Bees Kill Honey Bees?
No, carpenter bees don’t kill honey bees. Male carpenter bees will attempt to protect their hive by intimidating other animals when they’re too close to their nest, but they don’t have stingers so they can’t kill other insects.
But before we discuss more on that, take a look at the differences between carpenter bees and honey bees.
- Carpenter bees have hairless, black, shiny abdomens. But honey bees are fuzzy bees, with a hairy abdomen (and a hairy thorax and head to boot) that has bands occurring in either orange and brown or brown and black.
- Carpenter bees usually measure just around 1 inch long; honey bees are anywhere from ½ of an inch to ⅝ of an inch in length.
- Carpenter bees sometimes have a yellow thorax (some species have a blue, brown, black, or white); honey bees, on the other hand, have the classic yellow thorax with black bands.
- Carpenter bees don’t produce honey.
Do Carpenter Bees Kill Honey Bees or Other Bee Species?
The short answer is that bees usually get themselves involved in some form of flirting and fighting and they might even fight other carpenter bees. In most species of carpenter bee (genus Xylocopa) and some species of bumblebee (genus bombini), male bees—also known as drone bees—emerge from their nests when they are mature and the weather is warm. They then seek to stake territory that will be attractive to lady bees while keeping other drones of their species out of their territory.
Male carpenter bees do this by “dive-bombing” other male carpenter bees, in which they aggressively fly towards one another and try to shove the other bee out of their claimed territory. While these battles can be startling to watch, they are generally harmless to humans, since male carpenter bees do not have stingers and have no interest in attacking people.
Do Other Bees Attack Honey Bees?
Similar behavioral patterns have been observed in some species of bumblebee and honeybees. And in many cases, it has been noticed that the drones pick the same locations together, often without regard to whether there is food or suitable nesting sites for bumblebee queens. They also often leave pheromone trails on the exact same objects. Now, one speculative theory on why this might be advantageous is that bumble queens may seek out males by scent and that more drones leaving pheromone trails in the same place make it easier for the queens to detect the smell. But interestingly enough there isn’t a carpenter bee queen and they live solitary lives for the most part.
Drones of some species of bumblebees have been observed chasing honey bees—or what they think are queen bees based on visual cues, which can be any small flying object (including birds)—and then tackling and mating with the queens if they guess correctly.
Carpenter bees absolutely can cause structural damage, but it takes time. When carpenter bees tunnel into the wood, they create a series of tunnels that are anywhere from 4 to 6 inches long each, only revealing a small hole on the exterior but creating a tunnel network on the interior. Over time, these tunnel networks can grow to as long as 10 feet, which over a period of years can cause structural collapse. Find out how to get rid of carpenter bees! View more carpenter bee resources!