Carpenter Bee

Actual Size: ½ ” –  1”

Characteristics: Large, black and yellow; shiny hairless abdomen

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Females bore holes through soft, dry wood to lay eggs in.


  • Female carpenter bees 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
  • Carpenter bees hibernate in vacant nest tunnels during the winter

Carpenter Bees in Knoxville TN

Carpenter bees are found near and in wood often, but these insects actually do not eat the timber. In fact, they actually feed on flowering plants and nectar like most types of bees. They receive their name from their habit of boring tunnels into dry wood in order to lay their eggs. In contrast to the social tendencies of bumble and honey bees, carpenter bees lead solitary lives, as each female individually mates with a male to produce offspring. Mating takes place during the spring, and females then set to work cleaning out and enlarging tunnels left by earlier generations or excavate new ones in exposed, dry wood.

Carpenter Bee Nests

Unlike most bees, carpenter bees do not live in nests or colonies in the traditional sense. Adult carpenter bees overwinter in abandoned nest tunnels where they have stored limited pollen to survive the colder temperatures. The bees that survive the winter will emerge in the spring to feed on nectar, mate and build galleries. They may reuse an already existing gallery or they may excavate new galleries. Carpenter bee nests can often be found in decks, eaves, fascia boards, doors, railings, window trim, and other wooden surfaces. They prefer the wood from redwood, cedar, pine, and cypress trees and target wood that is unpainted, untreated, and weathered. However, they occasionally target painted and primed wood as well.

The tunnels they excavate into wooden surfaces are only for nurturing their eggs and young. Nests usually consist of tunnels half of an inch in diameter and 6-10″ deep and may include several brood chambers. Carpenter bees may buzz like saws when constructing nests (hence their name), making it easy to hear them from afar. You may also notice a pile of sawdust on the ground nearby excavating sites, which is a sign of a carpenter bee problem.

Carpenter Bee Habits & Dangers

It may be surprising to learn that this is one of the least aggressive stinging insects encountered in the summer months. Female carpenter bees can sting in defense if provoked, but it is rare. Males, while aggressive and defensive, lack a stinger and are thus harmless. The main concern with carpenter bees is the long-term structural damage they are capable of causing.

In general, carpenter bees do not pose much of a problem for homes and businesses, but generations of carpenter bees tunneling into the same wood can lead to significant structural damage. Additionally, the larvae developing in homes are attractive to woodpeckers and create more extensive damage to the existing holes while creating unwanted noise. If you have a carpenter bee problem forming in or near your property, it’s important to contact your local bee control experts.