Carpenter Bee


Actual Size: ½ ” –  1”

Characteristics: Large, black and yellow; shiny hairless abdomen

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Females bore holes through soft wood to lay eggs


  • In addition to boring into wood, they can stain wood with their feces
  • Target eaves of homes, decks, porches, and more
  • Male carpenter bees lack a stinger, but are very aggressive

Carpenter Bees in The North Bay and East Bay Area

Many people think carpenter bees eat wood, but they cannot digest it. In reality, carpenter bees get their name from their habit of tunneling into wood to create brood chambers for their young. Along with bumble bee queens, carpenter bees are the largest native bees in the United States. Carpenter bees use these tunnels to overwinter before reemerging in the springtime. The damage they cause is usually only noticeable after a long period of time. Carpenter bees are solitary and thus don’t cause as much trouble as a colony of bees or wasps would.

Carpenter Bee Habitat

Carpenter bees create individual nests in trees, eaves or sides of structures in the Bay Area. The mated female selects a suitable piece of wood for nest construction while the male spends most of their time hovering near nest sites. The female excavates a gallery using her mandibles, furnishes her nest with “bee bread” (a mixture of pollen and regurgitated nectar), deposits an egg and closes the cell with chewed wood pulp. While excavating, carpenter bees often make a loud buzzing noise that is very recognizable. If you notice piles of sawdust near a source of wood, you may locate a carpenter bee “nest” nearby.

Carpenter Bee Behavior — Threats — Dangers

Female carpenter bees are rarely aggressive, but will sting if provoked. Male carpenter bees do not possess a stinger, but can be extremely defensive when protecting and defending their nest. As with any bee, it’s important to see a medical professional if you have bad symptoms from a sting. Although carpenter bees can be helpful pollinators, they can cause significant damage to structures. Windowsills, wooden siding, decks, railings, outdoor furniture, and fences can be attacked. While the damage to wood from excavation of individual carpenter bees may be slight, the activities of numerous bees over many years can result in considerable destruction.

If you notice carpenter bee activity, it’s best to contact your local bee control specialist for advice and assistance.