Pollinators are necessary to not only help wildflowers and native plants thrive, but they’re a key part of the food supply, too. While honeybees and bumble bees are known pollinators, a lot of people are quite unsure about the large, smooth-bodied carpenter bees. Do carpenter bees pollinate? Let’s find out…
Do carpenter bees pollinate plants and flowers?
Yes. Carpenter bees, all 500 species of them, are excellent pollinators. They are especially efficient when it comes to pollinating shallow flowers, like the flowers that can become eggplants or passionflowers.
Do They Make Honey?
Carpenter bees do not make honey. Unlike honey bees or bumble bees, carpenter bees are solitary creatures. The only time wood bees live together is when they have recently mated or a female is raising offspring.
The pollen that carpenter bees collect is used as food for their offspring while they are young. This pollen is mixed with nectar to create “pollen loaves”. These loaves will line the nest of wood bees and provide sustenance for newly-hatched carpenter bee larvae.
Are Carpenter Bees Harmful?
For most, carpenter bees are a benign presence. A common myth is that they eat wood, like termites. This is not true. Female carpenter bees will drill into wood, making a single, hollow tube to nest inside of. So they excavate cavities into wood, but they are not eating the wood.
These large bees are also some of the least aggressive among all bee species. However, the sound they make when flying or collecting pollen (and thereby pollinating plants) can be mistaken for an aggressive sound.
If carpenter bees have infested a part of your property, you may have a different view of this matter. If wood bees have burrowed into your deck or another part of your home, the good news is that this is almost always a last resort for carpenter bees. An easy way to get them to move is to provide them with a better nesting spot away from the house, where they won’t be disturbed.
How to keep them from being destructive
Carpenter bees have very specific preferences and will take an easy nesting spot over treated wood, hardwood, or live trees. In an ideal world, carpenter bees would be able to easily find a dead tree to burrow into and build a nest.
To keep carpenter bees from destroying parts of your home or property, the easiest thing to do is put up a bee hotel or other carpenter-bee-friendly habitat. This allows the bees to nest peacefully nearby, where they won’t be disturbed, and lures them out of any less-than-ideal nesting spots.
Here’s a bee habitat on Amazon that people have had luck attracting carpenter bees to, and away from their homes.
Can Carpenter Bees Sting?
Wondering if a carpenter bee can sting makes sense. Carpenter bees are large and may fly right at you if you get close to their nest. In most cases, this aggressive behavior is both their first and last resort.
Female carpenter bees can sting but they typically will not unless they are handled or closed in on. They will also retain their stinger and can sting the same target multiple times if they continue to feel threatened. Male carpenter bees have no stinger but will still try to threaten anyone that gets close to their nest. These threats usually take the form of hovering close to the face of a person or other possible predator.
Can They Bite?
Carpenter bees don’t bite people or anything larger than themselves. The small mouth parts that carpenter bees are equipped with aren’t meant to be used offensively on much of anything. They could bite insects much smaller than themselves, but it’s unlikely that they would feel the need to.
How Do You Identify a Carpenter Bee?
Carpenter bees are large bees, about .5 to 1 inch long, with four wings, hairy back legs, and bodies that have little to no hair. Over 500 species of wood bees exist and they come in a range of colors. Some look similar to a skinny bumble bee. Others have bodies that are shiny and raven-colored.
In all cases, the bees will live alone, though they may be found nesting right next to another carpenter bee. Carpenter bees are not social and only temporarily stay with other bees in order to mate. Young bees will leave their nest as soon as they are fully developed.
What Are the Benefits of Carpenter Bees?
Carpenter bees have several benefits compared to other bees when it comes to pollination and their contributions to the ecosystem.
- Low Aggression Levels – Carpenter bees, unless being actively provoked or having been injured, are some of the most likely to ignore an unknown presence inside their “territory”.
- Solitary Habits – Carpenter bees live alone, with female bees outnumbering male carpenter bees. This means it is much easier for them to replenish their populations as they do not rely on an ordered colony.
- Generalist Pollination – Carpenter bees will take nectar from anywhere, even feeders of sugar solution or nectar substitute. This lack of preference can make them easy to lure.
- Long Active Season – Compared to honeybees and nearly all other large bees, carpenter bees are active the longest. They don’t hibernate for long stretches and tend to “wake up” on days with above-average temperatures to see what they can forage.
- Prolific Pollinators – When large carpenter bees gather nectar, their body size and movements can fan pollen out to neighboring plants. This can help pollinate plants in close-quarters more efficiently than relying on the pollen that might stick to each of these bees.
How Do You Attract Carpenter Bees?
Carpenter bees can be efficient pollinators. Attracting these bees could help you add their benefits to your garden or agricultural enterprise. It could also be useful to know how to lure these bees away from places you don’t want them to nest.
Carpenter bees are most easily attracted by two things: an easy spot to nest and food. Bee hotels are the easiest way to attract carpenter bees to a certain nesting area. Placing nectar substitute or sugar water in a nearby feeder can help ensure that they find the area attractive enough to stay in.
Carpenter Bees Are Important Pollinators
Pollinators are an important part of the food system. Bees, including carpenter bees, contribute around 10% to the overall pollination of plants that lead to agricultural production worldwide. Compared to other types of bees, wood bees are less aggressive and have a longer active season, allowing them to pollinate more types of plants throughout the year and grow their population more quickly than colony-dependent bees.