Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee on milkweed. Notice the pollen masses, pollinia, clinging to its legs


The Carpenter Bee is easily confused with the Bumble Bees. It is the same size or larger, dark and robust. But it doesn’t have any hair on the abdomen, thus this part of its body appears glossy black. The Eastern Carpenter Bee is black all over, while Bumble Bees have yellow stripes. The hind legs of Carpenter Bees, especially females are thick and very hairy, different from Bumble Bees that have two rows of hairs forming a pollen basket. The male has a white spot on its forehead.

Male carpenter bee. It has a white spot on its face


The females dig holes on soft wood to build nests; that is why they are called Carpenter Bees. The males fight for territories in the early spring and you may see them buzzing around near buildings for long hours at a time. They don’t sting, so there isn’t much to fear although they may look quite threatening. The females stay through the summer building their nests and stocking them with nectar and pollen collected at flowers to feed their broods.

Habitat. Fields and gardens. In spring, they are often seen near buildings where there is some exposed wood. The Eastern Carpenter Bee is widespread, mostly in the East.

Season. From early spring to late fall.

Flowers. A large variety of flowers, from dogwood and apple blossoms in the spring to goldenrods in the fall. They seem to show a preference for large flowers or those grouped in large clusters. Passion flower and goldenrods are favorites.

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5 Responses to “Carpenter Bee”

  1. Emily Heath Says:

    Do you know more about the mating process and life cycle of carpenters? There is a blog post I’ve just read with great macro photos of mating carpenter bees and the poster is struggling to find much information on these bees. She has read that they usually mate in May/June, not August – http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2011/08/29/beegetting-carpenter-bees/

  2. Pollinator Says:

    Hello Emily: Interesting observation in that blog. Do you know where the blogger is located? This mating behavior in August would make more sense in the South, where the warm season is longer. Most reports are of mating of carpenter bees in the spring. However there is one old reference of two generations per year in Florida. This would mean that there is some mating behavior going on later in the season. Males are also seen in summer and fall, not just the spring, especially in southern states, although they are less numerous in those seasons. It makes sense that they try to mate, what other reason for living do they have?
    I haven’t observed this myself and now I am curious so I will start looking and asking others.
    Some information in carpenter bees in: Bugguide and University of Florida.
    Good luck with your observations.

  3. Emily Heath Says:

    Thanks for replying so quickly! It looks like they live in Niagara Falls, New York. I’ve left them a comment linking to your reply. Their photos certainly are fascinating.

  4. Garden Walk Garden Talk Says:

    Hi Pollinator,
    Donna from Garden Walk Garden Talk. I had read this post when I was researching the Carpenter Bee. What a coincidence Emily would send me here. I live in Niagara Falls, so I am with you on this being an oddity. Yesterday there were three bee couples mating, all Carpenter Bees. I only followed one female, but was so amazed so many bees were amorous. I like bees and wrote on Digger Bees too. I got some decent images of them too, considering I took them with a 300mm lens and no tripod. On the Carpenter Bees, I did not have on the macro lens either or the image would have been a bit clearer. I think what amazed me most on this behavior was the repeated mating. I could not find any information on that to see if this was normal. Thanks for your long reply too.

  5. The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees Says:

    […] 15. Carpenter Bees, by Beatriz Moisset. “The Carpenter Bee is easily confused with the Bumble Bees. It is the same size or larger, dark and robust. But it doesn’t have any hair on the abdomen, thus this part of its body appears glossy black.” […]

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