Of all common bee varieties, carpenter bees are probably the most confusing ones. Do carpenter bees pollinate your garden, or do they just spend their time buzzing around and getting on your nerves because they can? Should you feel apprehensive when you see one approaching? In this article, I’ll share contemporary scientists’ view on the purpose of carpenter bees and whether carpenter bee traps are a good idea. A set of frequently asked questions is included along with brief answers for more insights.

Carpenter bees are known to be important pollinators for a variety of garden plants and flowers. They rely on the so-called buzz pollination mechanism, sonicating pollen out of flowers. Still, they are an economic pest, which is a valid reason to use humane bee traps in your garden.

What Do Carpenter Bees Look Like?

As it often happens when it comes to insects, the name by which carpenter bees go is rather vague. It turns out it’s an umbrella term for a variety of bee species, united by the habit of making tunnels in wood. There are seven of them in the United States alone, and it’s a family that boasts global distribution.

Often misidentified as bumble bees, the carpenter variety is still quite different from them. First of all, wood bees are larger, measuring ¾ to 1 inch on average. Secondly, their abdomens are a shiny black with no hair as opposed to bumble bees’ hairy striped bellies. Another important distinction is that carpenter bees are typically solitary, while their counterparts prefer to live in small groups.

It’s common for male carpenter bees to have a white “mask”, while the female’s face is all black. This is something you’d better pay attention to, because it’s the females that can sting, not the males.

What Do Carpenter Bees Do?

One common question when it comes to this variety is do wood bees pollinate your garden? The short answer is yes, they are excellent pollinators. If you have ever seen a carpenter bee buzzing around wood and matched this with their well-known habit of making holes in wooden structures, you might have the idea that this variety feeds on wood. In reality, however, carpenter bees forage on flower nectar, and their females rely on pollen to feed their offspring. As they carry it around, pollination of plants takes place.

Are Carpenter Bees Pollinators or Pests?

Pollination is a vital mission, and we can’t overestimate how carpenter bees help us by distributing pollen. However, there’s a flip side to it as well. While carpenter bees pollinate our gardens and the nearby fields, they also damage our deck and other wooden structures by making nesting chambers inside the wood.

This makes them what you might have heard being referred to as an economic pest, calling for the use of humane bee traps to control carpenter bee activity on your property. Don’t get me wrong: there’s no need to exterminate these meek and useful creatures; just hang a trap here and there to make sure their population doesn’t get out of control.

Carpenter Bees FAQ

In this section, I briefly answer popular questions about carpenter bees that I’ve been asked many times. Read above for more details on this curious bee variety.

Are carpenter bees good to have around?

Yes, to some extent. We rely on bees heavily enough for the propagation of plants which generate food sources for us, and carpenter bees are no exception. You needn’t be afraid of their stings, because you’ll likely need to touch a female deliberately to get stung. The bad thing about having carpenter bees for neighbors is that they will slowly destroy wooden structures around your home to make nesting room for themselves.

Why do carpenter bees get so close to you?

Usually hovering means the bee is interested in you because you are wearing bright, floral-patterned clothes or a flowery perfume. While really annoying, this “stalking” behavior isn’t dangerous.

How damaging are carpenter bees?

Wood bees make half-inch round holes in structures such as trusses and decks, potentially causing problems such as ceiling/floor sinking and wall bulging in the long run.

Carpenter Bees: A Blessing and a Curse

It turns out the unaggressive, teddy-bear-like carpenter bees are generally harmless stalkers and also great pollinators. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost of ruined property due to their nesting habits that cause them to create tunnels in wooden structures. If you’ve found yourself hosting some carpenter bees, my recommendation is that you should use humane traps here and there to keep them in check. Damaging pest control methods aren’t appropriate when it comes to this variety.

What’s your experience with carpenter bees? Share in the comments!