Carpenter Bees in SE Louisiana and Mississippi
Carpenter bees, true to their name, are robust bees that bore tunnels through untreated wood. Many think they consume the wood, but in actuality, carpenter bees use it to lay their eggs. Generally black in color and 1/4 to 1 inch in length, these bees are often mistaken for bumblebees. Along with bumblebee queens, carpenter bees are the largest native bees in the United States. Another difference is that the carpenter is solitary and does not build hives. The upper surface of their abdomen is bare and shiny black, while bumblebees have a hairy abdomen with yellow markings here and there.
Carpenter Bee Nests
Carpenter bees are not social insects and create individual nests in trees, eaves, or on the 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. A carpenter bee infestation is usually detected by observing a large amount of sawdust and pollen on the ground below the area being chewed and excavated.
Carpenter Bee Habits & Dangers
Because they look like bumbles bees, which do sting, carpenter bees evoke a great deal of concern. Female carpenter bees are rarely aggressive but will sting if provoked. If a person is stung by a carpenter bee and is allergic to bee venom, they should seek immediate medical attention. Male carpenter bees do not possess a stinger, but can be extremely defensive when protecting and defending their nest. 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.
Old nests are used year after year and offspring will often times construct nests alongside old nests. For this reason, a single nest one year will become two or three the following year. If carpenter bees are allowed to tunnel in the same structure year after year, the cumulative damage can be significant. This makes it important to contact your local bee control experts as soon as you notice the signs of a carpenter bee problem.
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