Along with bumblebees, carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa) are the largest native bees in the United States. There are numerous species of carpenter bees that inhabit a broad range of ecosystems, from tropical and subtropical to temperate.
In the United States carpenters, bees can be found across the southern United States from Arizona to Florida, and in the eastern parts of the country.
Living Habits of Carpenter Bees – Where Carpenter Bees Live
These gentle giants get their name from their age-long life habits of excavating precisely rounded galleries inside the wood. Using their broad, strong mandibles (jaws), they chew into dead but non-decayed limbs or trunks of standing dead trees. Some species, like the eastern Xylocopa virginica, occasionally take up residence in fence posts or structural timbers, especially redwood, and become a minor nuisance.
As much as you might think that all bees live in hives or in the ground, carpenter bees are undoubtedly different. Carpenter bees live in individual nests in softwood, which is why you can find these bees in porches, old trees, or any other structure with softwood
During the spring, people often notice large, black bees hovering around the perimeter of their homes. These are likely to be 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, and outdoor furniture.
No Hives for Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees are considered solitary bees, meaning they don’t work or live in colonies like bumblebees or any other species and carpenter bees don’t have a queen. Anything more than a female and male in one nest is considered a crowd. Think about how many more carpenter bee nests are needed compared to bumblebees that live with hundreds of other bees!
Carpenter bees do not live in colonies like honeybees or bumblebees. The adults overwinter individually, often in previously constructed brood tunnels. Those that survive the winter emerge and mate the following spring. Fertilized female carpenter bees then bore into wood, excavating a tunnel to lay their eggs.
The entrance hole in the wood surface is perfectly round and about the diameter of your little finger. Coarse sawdust may be present below the opening, and tunneling sounds are sometimes heard within the wood. After boring in a short distance, the bee makes a right-angle turn and continues to tunnel parallel to the wood surface. Inside the tunnel, about five or six cells are constructed for housing individual eggs.
Working back to front, the bee provisions each cell with pollen (collected from spring-flowering plants) and a single egg, sealing each successive chamber with regurgitated wood pulp. Hatching and maturation occur over several weeks, with the pollen serving as a food source for the developing larvae. Later in the summer, the new generation of adult bees emerge and forage on flowers, returning to wood in the fall for hibernation.
Final Thoughts On Where Carpenter Bees Live And Nesting Habits
Over time, their nests can house multiple generations and can cause serious damage. Along with that, the holes attract hungry woodpeckers and rotting fungi. Don’t wait for spring to control and eliminate carpenter bees because they use the holes year-round and tend to spend the winter in them.