Carpenter Bee

Actual Size: ½ ” –  1”

Characteristics: Large, black and yellow; shiny hairless abdomen

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Female carpenter bees bore holes through soft wood to lay eggs in.


  • Female carpenter bees do possess a stinger but seldom use it unless they are handled or provoked
  • Can be a real nuisance to homeowners because they tunnel into decks, porches, and other wood structures
  • Male carpenter bees lack a stinger, but are very aggressive

Carpenter Bees in Southern California

Carpenter bees do not eat wood as many believe. Instead, they receive their unique name due to the fact that that bore through wood to lay their eggs. Female carpenter bees create small holes as chambers to raise their young. Along with bumble bee queens, carpenter bees are the largest native bees in the United States. They can be found all across the nation, including right here in the Los Angeles Metro Area. Although they are large and bore through dry, weathered wood, carpenter bees are less interested in humans and rarely sting.

Carpenter Bee Habitat

Carpenter bees are not as social as other types of stinging insects. Instead, they choose to create individual nests in trees, eaves or sides of structures. Males and females overwinter in old nest tunnels and emerge in the spring to mate. 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. Carpenter bees cannot consume cellulose, which is why they do not eat the wood.

An easy sign of a carpenter bee infestation is when you notice a large amount of sawdust or pollen on the ground. This often indicates the area being chewed and excavated through.

Carpenter Bee Threats

Female carpenter bees possess a stinger while males do not. Oddly enough, females rarely sting while males are the more aggressive kind. If a person is stung by a carpenter bee and is allergic to bee venom or gets a bad reaction, they should always seek out medical attention.

The main concern with carpenter bees is the damage they can cause. 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 bees, always contact your local bee control company.