Carpenter Bee

Actual Size: ½ to 1”

Characteristics: Large, black, and yellow; hairless and shiny abdomen

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Rather than building nests, females will bore deep holes through soft or decaying wood and lay their eggs inside.


  • Creates holes in wooden structures to live in, rather than building nests and colonies like other bees.
  • Does not eat wood, but instead digs tunnels through decaying wood to build a home.
  • Though male carpenter bees are aggressive, they lack a stinger.

Carpenter Bees in the Pacific Northwest

Carpenter bees are the largest bees native to the United States, and they are very common across the country. These insects have a habit of boring tunnels through wood, which is why they are called carpenter bees. Rather than building nests, these bees build chambers in weathered wood, which they use to raise their young. Contrary to popular belief, carpenter bees do not consume wood. However, they can cause significant damage by excavating tunnels through dry or decaying lumber.

Carpenter Bee Habitat

Unlike many other bees, carpenter bees are not social insects. Rather than living in colonies, individual bees create nests in trees, eaves, or other structures. Carpenter bees overwinter in nest tunnels, and they emerge in the springtime to mate. Once mated, females will choose a suitable piece of wood to build their nest in, and the males will hover near nest sites. As the female excavates holes in the wood for the nest, she will create a mixture of pollen and regurgitated nectar called “bee bread” to fill the tunnel. She will then deposit an egg into the hole, and close the chamber with chewed wood pulp. A carpenter bee infestation can usually be spotted because of sawdust or pollen on the ground below a nest.

Carpenter Bee Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

Though female carpenter bees are rarely aggressive, they will sting if provoked. If someone with a bee allergy is stung by a carpenter bee, it is important that they seek immediate medical attention. Male carpenter bees are known for being very defensive when protecting their nest, but they do not possess a stinger. While carpenter bees are important pollinators, they can cause extensive damage by boring holes through structures. Decks, windowsills, wooden siding, railing, and fences are common places for carpenter bees to build homes. Though individual bees are unlikely to cause major damage, numerous bees in an area for several years can lead to significant destruction. If you notice the signs of a carpenter bee infestation, contacting a bee control professional can help you get rid of these pests before they can cause too much damage.