Do Carpenter Bees Sting

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Do Carpenter Bees Sting?

Have you seen what looks like bumble bees buzzing around the eaves or wood of your home? This sight can be a real puzzler, especially if you can’t seem to figure out where their hive is. Well, you can stop scratching your head now; there’s a good chance you’re dealing with carpenter bees.

do carpenter bees sting

Do carpenter bees sting? And why are they hanging out around your house? Read on to find the answer to these queries and some other carpenter bee FAQS.

What Are Carpenter Bees?

Many people call carpenter bees “wood bees,” and with good reason. These insects like to burrow and nest in wood. You’ll usually know if you have carpenter bees because you’ll likely see them flying around wooden areas of your home or in and out of wood piles or sheds. The entrance to their burrows are perfectly round holes that are just about the size of a finger. (Don’t stick your finger into these holes.) Additionally, carpenter bees may leave piles of sawdust behind as they carve out their tunnels.

What Do Carpenter Bees Look Like?

A lot of people confuse carpenter bees with bumble bees because they’re about the same size and can also be similar in color. As far as appearance goes, carpenter bees are usually around 1 inch in length and can be solid black or black and yellow. However, unlike a bumble bee, which is fuzzy all over, carpenter bees have hairless, shiny black abdomens.

Do Carpenter Bees Eat Wood?

One common misconception is that carpenter bees eat wood. This assumption makes sense as they do live and bore in wood and many insects that do this, like termites, do feed on cellulose. However, carpenter bees eat nectar, while their larvae are fed a special “bee bread” that is made and stored in the wooden burrows.

Are Carpenter Bees Pollinators?

Like honey bees and bumble bees, carpenter bees do play a role in pollination. But there’s another reason that carpenter bees help pollinate flowers and crops. The bee bread the larvae are fed is made from a combination of pollen and regurgitated nectar. Carpenter bees are actually considered a key pollinator because they gather pollen and nectar for their larvae, in turn cross pollinating other plants.

Do Carpenter Bees Sting?

The short answer is yes. Female carpenter bees can sting you, although they are very unlikely to do so unless you’re handling them or poking your fingers into their burrows (which is already mentioned above as something you should not do). Male carpenter bees are not equipped with stingers. However, they do hover outside the burrow exit and guard the nest. If you get too close, the male may buzz and fly at you aggressively. Because these bees are fairly large, this is usually enough to drive people away.

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How Can I Try to Control Carpenter Bees?

As pollinators, carpenter bees are very beneficial to the environment, so it’s always best to leave them alone if you can. There are a few steps you can take to help prevent carpenter bees:

  • Paint or stain the surface of the exposed wood on your home. (Painting is better.) Carpenter bees prefer untreated wood. Note: It’s a good idea to treat your wood with a paint or varnish that creates a slick surface that carpenter bees have trouble latching onto.
  • Keep garage doors and other openings shut during the spring, which is nesting season.
  • Eliminate attractants close to your home by covering sugary drinks and fruits when you’re outdoors and keeping trash cans sealed and away from the house.

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Carpenter Bee Sting: How to Treat and Prevent

Do Carpenter Bees Sting

“Carpenter bee” refers to hundreds of species of bees that make their nests in wood.

The specific behavior and appearance of each species may vary according to where it lives. For the most part, all carpenter bees tunnel into wood and live alone or with small family units instead of creating a hive.

Carpenter bees aren’t typically dangerous, especially if you leave them alone. This article will cover ways to identify carpenter bees, treat a sting from a carpenter bee, and what to do to avoid getting stung.

If you see a carpenter bee coming toward you, darting and buzzing aggressively, it’s probably a male. Male carpenter bees don’t have a stinger, so they’ll put on a threatening display as a defense mechanism.

Female carpenter bees do have stingers that contain venom, and they’re able to sting more than once.

Females tend to stay close to their eggs, so you’re unlikely to encounter them unless you disturb their nest. Female carpenter bees will only sting if they’re directly provoked.

Carpenter bee stingers contain bee venom. When a carpenter bee stings you, you’ll immediately feel a sharp pain and a burning sensation at the site of the sting and the surrounding area of skin.

Because carpenter bees don’t lose their stinger after they attack, you won’t have to remove a stinger from your skin. But as soon as you get stung by a carpenter bee, you should begin treating the area.

  1. Clean the area of the sting to prevent infection. Use soap and lukewarm water to rinse the skin around the sting, and pat it dry.
  2. You will want to keep inflammation from the sting down as much as possible. Use a cold compress, a cold gel pack, or a cold washcloth on your skin to soothe inflammation.
  3. If pain persists, you may want to take ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or another over-the-counter pain medication. You may also want to apply an antihistamine cream like Benadryl to reduce swelling.
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Carpenter bees are able to sting more than once. If you or your child have multiple bee stings, seek immediate medical attention.

Signs of a bee sting allergy

A bee sting allergy means getting stung is a medical emergency. Difficulty breathing, a swollen tongue, nausea or dizziness, and loss of consciousness are all signs of anaphylaxis and can indicate that an allergic reaction is occurring.

If someone is exhibiting signs of a bee sting allergy, call 911 or local emergency services immediately. While you wait for emergency help to arrive:

  • Administer epinephrine (EpiPen) if the person has a bee sting kit available.
  • Roll the person onto their back and elevate their fee above their heart if signs of shock are present.
  • Reassure the individual, and keep them warm and comfortable.
  • Monitor vital signs such as breathing and pulse, and be ready to administer CPR if necessary.

The best way to prevent getting stung by a carpenter bee is to avoid the insects, if you can. If you spot a carpenter bee’s nest, don’t use your hands to try to dislodge or remove it.

Carpenter bees tend to reuse the same areas of wood for their nests, year after year. You may be able to figure out where they like to nest and avoid touching their preferred nesting place.

Insecticide can be carefully inserted directly into the hole the bee uses as her nest entrance if you can figure out where she’s holed up.

Nail holes, unpainted wood, and other exposed wood surfaces are attractive places for carpenter bees to build their nests. Wood stain, paint, and sealants can all prevent carpenter bees from nesting in your deck, patio, and outdoor spaces.

If a carpenter bee lands on you, try not to make any sudden movements. Remain calm, and wait for the bee to fly away.

When spending time outdoors, make sure to dispose of any garbage immediately. Fruit juice, fruit pits, and other sweet-smelling snacks can attract bees, so be mindful of that when you’re packing a picnic.

Carpenter bees look similar to bumblebees, and it’s easy to confuse the two.

Carpenter bees in the United States tend to be more black than yellow and have a smooth, shiny black abdomen.

Bumblebees, by contrast, have fuzzy yellow abdomens covered in hair. Carpenter bees also have thick black hair on their hind legs.

Carpenter bees are most active during the spring, coming out in April and May in the northern hemisphere to find partners and mate. Female carpenter bees will then nest, lay their eggs, and die shortly after.

By August, the eggs have hatched and developed into adults. After a short period of activity during the late summer, the bees return to shelter in their nest until the following spring when the life cycle starts over again.

A carpenter bee sting is about as painful as any other type of bee sting. Carpenter bees can sting more than once, which makes getting stung slightly more concerning.

You can usually treat a carpenter bee sting at home, and symptoms will be gone within 24 hours.

In the case of a bee sting allergy or multiple bee stings, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Last medically reviewed on August 13, 2020

How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Carpenter bees. (2017).
    ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-2074
  • How to treat a bee sting. (n.d.).
    aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin/bites/treat-bee-sting
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020). Bee sting.
    mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bee-stings/symptoms-causes/syc-20353869

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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