Where is the saw dust coming from?

Published 6:20 pm Friday, March 17, 2017

By Ty Torrence

It is still a little early for carpenter bees, but I had a question this week that prompted this article.  I thought some of you might be interested in general information pertaining to carpenter bees. Carpenter bees, which are about an inch long, are commonly mistaken for bumble bees. The main difference between carpenter bees and bumble bees is the abdomen.  Carpenter bees have a slick shinny looking abdomen while bumble bees have an extremely hairy abdomen.

The life cycle of carpenter bees is relatively straightforward. From early to late spring throughout much of the country, they emerge from holes in natural or man-made wood and seek mates. Males sometimes appear aggressive by buzzing loudly and flying in front of a person’s face. But it’s just an act. Male carpenter bees are completely harmless, only the females have stingers.

Email newsletter signup

Male carpenter bees have a distinctive light-colored spot on the face that is presumably a signal during the mating season. If you are confident in your ability to identify the male carpenter bee this can prove to be a useful trick.  You can grab and hold on to the male bee without being stung, but remember misidentification can be mildly painful.

Female carpenter bees do not eat wood. They chew a tunnel into wood leaving the saw dust below its new home that I am sure you are familiar with. The females prefer an already created hole, but some additional excavation and reorganization may be part of the process.  Female carpenter bees gather pollen, store it in the burrows, and lay their eggs. The pollen serves as a source of nutrition for the larvae.  The male bees spend most of their time flying in front of the tunnel guarding the home. Most adult bees die during the summer after their young are born. The recently born bees spend their time gathering pollen in order to over winter in the tunnels already provided.

Carpenter bees usually do not cause any significant structural damage, but can be a general nuisance.  If you wish to rid yourself of carpenter bees, there are a couple of options.  It is recommended to paint the wood with an oil based or polyurethane based paint.  This is not a closed door to carpenter bee tunneling but they do prefer unpainted soft wood.  There are general aerosol sprays that are effective if you hit the adult bees themselves, but will not work by spraying the wood surface.  If you wish to spray an insecticide in the tunnels a product containing permethrin can be used. 

If you have any questions, please give us a call at (229) 248-3033.