The Eastern Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa virginica) has been busy at the 40 Acre Woods. The Month of May is when the females start looking for a fine piece of lumber to drill a hole in and make a nest, unfortunately the lumber is part of my porch. Often mistaken for a large Bumble Bee, these bees can cause a lot of damage if you do not protect your wood structure.
They are good polinators like the Bumble Bee, I just wish they would do their nesting in the trees. Carpenter Bees like a wood surface in a protected spot like my porch or pavilion to nest out of the weather.
The easiest way to tell the difference between a Bumble Bee and a Eastern Carpenter Bee is the abdomen. Eastern Carpenter Bees have a shiny black abdomen, with the only yellow hair present being at the base next to the thorax, while bumblebees have a very fuzzy abdomen, and usually large areas of yellow hair across the middle. Female Eastern Carpenter Bees have a much broader head than a Bumble Bee. Male Eastern Carpenter Bees have a patch of white or yellow cuticle on the face, as opposed to females, whose faces are black.
Female Carpenter Bees make nests by tunneling into wood. They make an initial hole in an overhang, eaves, or similar structure about a half inch wide and tunnel upward if the grain is horizontal and sideways if the grain is vertical. Then, they make one or more tunnels at a right angle. Unlike Termites, Carpenter Bees do not eat wood. They discard the bits of wood, or use them to make partitions (walls) inside the tunnels of their nests. The tunnel functions as a nursery for brood and the pollen/nectar upon which the brood subsists. If you see a pile of sawdust on the floor, look up for the hole.
Male Eastern Carpenter Bees are curious and will check you out if you come near their nest. The curiosity is often interpreted as aggressiveness and scares the heck out of me; however, the males are only aggressive to other male Carpenter Bees. They do not have stingers and cannot cause any real harm. The female Carpenter Bees tend to be busy with floral visitation and nest provisioning, but have the ability to cause a painful sting if captured.
Putting poison on the wood does not help much with Carpenter Bees since they do not eat the wood. I have found that these Carpenter Bee traps and a fly swatter do a good job of lowering the threat. The Carpenter Bee trap presents the bee with a ready made hole in a block of wood. When inside the bee is confused and goes down into the plastic bottle to exit following the light. They are then trapped and cannot find their way out of the bottle. These are simple, but very effective and a treat for the chickens.
Always dealing with something at the 40 Acre Woods.