Common Name: Carpenter Bee
Latin Name: Xylocopa
Common Family Name: Bees
Latin Family Name: Apidae
Origin: A number of native species of these bees occur in North America.
Biology: Carpenter bees are solitary bees that get their common name from their habit of boring chambers in solid wood in order to create living quarters for their larvae. Softer woods such as redwood may be preferred, and the wood is not eaten, but instead is reduced to sawdust (“frass”) which is ejected from the tunnels. The female bee does the excavating, and several females may be working in the same section of wood and using the same entrance hole, but creating separate galleries. Males and females over-winter in old galleries and emerge in the spring to mate. They will both die before the end of the summer and it is their offspring which begin the next year’s activity. The galleries may be used repeatedly, with each new female lengthening the tunnel, which often can be over 10 feet in length. She creates an average of 6 or 7 cells, each separated by a plug, and places an egg and a food supply of pollen and nectar in each cell. Once this is completed she never returns to care for the larvae.
Identification: There are several species of carpenter bees that are fairly small, but the common Xylocopa species that may invade structural wood are some of the largest bees in North America, with some of the largest over an inch long. Coloring normally is shiny metallic blue-green to black, although the male of the Valley Carpenter Bee is light tan. They may be separated from bumblebees by the relative lack of hairs on the abdomen, as well as by their more rapid, erratic flight habits Damage from these bees is hidden within the wood, often with only the round entrance hole visible. Within the wood the galleries extend with the grain of the wood, and are almost perfectly round, ending with the cells in which the larvae develop.
Characteristics Important in Control: Surface coatings of paint or varnish are somewhat repellent, but not always. Injection of a residual dust insecticide into the gallery opening, followed by placement of a plug in the opening, will confine the bees to this treated area if done at night. Holes can then be permanently sealed.