Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees belong to the bee family ‘Apidae’, although they were originally classified with the family ‘Anthophoridae’. (You can read more about the families of the different types of bees here ). They also belong to the genus Xylocopa, and to the insect order ‘Hymenoptera’.

Although they are solitary, with some species, females may live alongside their own sisters or daughters, thus forming a basic social group.

Violet Carpenter Bee Xylocopa violacea This particular species pictured left is Xylocopa violacea, is generally found in southern Europe, although has recently been discovered in the UK. I took this photograph whilst on holiday in Italy. I had seen several of them foraging among the flowers (they’re good pollinators), and was eventually lucky enough to see one whilst I had my camera with me. I have read that this species lays the largest egg of any insect!

Do they Sting?
Like other bees, they will sting only if provoked, and are mostly interested in foraging and going about their business. (Learn more about bee stings and treatments here). Males cannot sting. However, they are territorial, and it can come as a bit of a surprise if they seemingly fly at you! However, they cannot harm you in any way. The females are able to sting, but like bumblebees they are docile, and will rarely do so.

Carpenter Bee Lifecycle
They emerge from hibernation in the spring, around April or May. They overwinter as adults in wood within abandoned nest tunnels.By late spring or early summer, you may see them hovering around searching for mates and suitable nesting sites. After mating, the fertilized females excavate tunnels in wood. As with other solitary bees, the female constructs the nest alone. She lays her eggs within a series of small cells, each supplied with a ball of pollen on which the larvae feed. The larvae emerge as adults in late summer, and hibernate until the following year.

Nesting Habits
Not surprisingly, these bees get their name because they are known to make their nests by boring holes in wood. They then use small amounts of wood chips to form partitions between the cells in which they lay their eggs. Small amounts of sawdust may be visible around nest sites, although old nest tunnels may be used.

Do I Need To Get Rid Of Them?
Some people are keen to get rid of carpenter bees if they discover they have them, however, these types of bees do not usually cause significant damage, although some species may cause damage. Carpenter bees are more inclined to make their nests in rotting old or damaged wood. This can lead people to believe it is the bees themselves who have caused the damage, but very often it will be a sign that the wood needs to be replaced in any case.

Bees are excellent pollinators of flowers and plants, and that includes carpenter bees. It is better to engage in preventative carpenter bee control, rather than using pesticides or trying to kill carpenter bees. Maintain woodwork, keep it well painted and in good condition. These bees are not out to make work for themselves by selecting hard, painted wood that will be more difficult for them to bore into!

There's more information about solitary bees on these links:

Find out about charming little mason bees.

You'll find information about mining bees here.

Learn about enchanting little leafcutter bees.

Other links of interest:

Honey bees are amazing. Find out more!

And bumblebees are beautiful! Here they are.

But all bees need our help. Here's why.........

......And here's what we can do about it.

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