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The carpenter bee gets its name from its habit of boring into and tunneling in wood. These bees rarely sting.


carpenter bee figure 1

Figure 1

Carpenter bees look very similar to bumblebees with their black and yellow coloration. The major difference is that carpenter bees have no hairs on their abdomens. Instead, carpenter bee abdomens are smooth and shiny (Figure 1).

The eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica emerges from overwintering sites in the spring. They forage for nectar and may provide some early pollination. Males are the first to emerge and go about setting up territories which they aggressively defend, flying at anything that enters it. When people enter the territory, the male will make threatening flights toward that person. Fortunately, males do not sting; consequently, these threats, though scary, are harmless. Females, which do have a singer, rarely use it. Carpenter bees are not social insects, although several may be found in the same wooden area.


carpenter bee figure 2

Figure 2

Once the females emerge, mating occurs and the female begins to search for a suitable to lay her eggs. Once the female has found a suitable site on the underside, she begins excavating the wood by vibrating her body while rasping her mandibles against the wood. In short order, an almost perfectly round hole approximately ½-inch in diameter takes shape. She continues this activity until she has bored in against the grain of the wood nearly the length of her body, after which she turns and begins tunneling with the grain. The tunnel may extend several inches and is perfectly smooth. After the female completes her tunnel, she begins to lay her eggs. The first egg is laid at the end. Then a chamber, approximately one inch in length, is created by a wall of pollen which she has collected. She continues this procedure until she reaches the entrance hole. After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the pollen wall until they emerge as adults during the summer (Figure 2). It is interesting to note that the first egg laid at the end of the tunnel is the last to emerge as an adult.

Males and females will often overwinter in used tunnels. In the spring the activity begins again. In some cases, tunnels may be used for several years and extend for several feet inside the wood.


Carpenter bee prefer bare, untreated, unpainted wood. They prefer softwoods such as cedar and cypress, but they will readily attack pine and most other species of wood. Pressure treated wood is also vulnerable to a carpenter bee attack. Shutters, screen doors, benches, fences, arbors, and the back side of fascia boards are some of the sites used by carpenter bees. Their drilling is obvious by the pile of coarse sawdust building up beneath the hole. In addition, staining where they have defecated is another obvious sign. Fascia boards are a popular site because they are hard to reach for control options. Heavy populations of carpenter bees in fascia boards may lead to further damage from woodpeckers looking for the developing bee larvae.


  • If using wood, paint it! Paint discourages carpenter bees from tunneling.
  • Use composite or engineered wood products.

Economy Exterminators’ Pest Control Solutions program uses the 4-step approach to solve your carpenter bee problem:

  • Our 1st step is the inspection of the property by a customer service specialist.
  • The 2nd step is an initial treatment by a customer service specialist. Critical areas are shutters, benches, arbors, decks, porches, and mailbox posts. Our pest control program includes carpenter bee treatments up to 8 feet high. However, if the damage is detected above this height, an additional cost would be charged for the repair.
  • The 3rd step is a 37-point inspection of your property to identify areas susceptible to carpenter bee damage.
  • The 4th step is our ongoing maintenance program. Call any of our Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill or Wilmington locations to schedule your free inspection.
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