Bees here and butterflies there! Spring is not Spring without these tiny bundles of joy hovering around in your backyard. They add new hues to your flowerbeds and help you welcome the season with utmost joy. Who doesn’t like a little buzz in their yards?
Then again, there’s another side to the story. Something which will not leave you equally thrilled about the bees buzzing about in your garden. Yes, not only can these bees sting, some of them, like carpenter bees nest in the woodwork or trees outside your house which causes damage that costs a fortune to reverse.
Bumblebees and Carpenter bees are a regular feature in almost every American yard. They are identical in appearance. Yet, it is important that you know that which black and yellow creature is nesting in your yard and address it properly. There are several dissimilarities between both the bees which need a little-detailed observation.
Table of Contents
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- Carpenter Bees vs Bumblebees in terms of Appearance
- Social Habits of Carpenter Bees vs Bumblebees
- Where do these bees live?
- What do these bees feed upon?
- Do they sting?
- Effective Ways to Treat a Bee Sting
- Damage caused by carpenter bees
- Methods to Prevent Bees from Nesting in your Home
- Are Bumblebees and Carpenter Bees Harmful?
- Steps to Get Rid of Carpenter Bee Burrows
Carpenter Bees vs Bumblebees in terms of Appearance
Carpenter bees and bumblebees are both about an inch long bees with fuzzy bodies. But if you look clearly, the dorsal or the upper abdomen of the carpenter bee is hairless and shiny. On the other hand, a bumblebee is completely covered in hair and its upper abdomen is fuzzy.
One cannot overlook the black and yellow markings on the bumblebees. Some species of carpenter bees also have some yellow colouration, but that is not common for all the species. Xylocopa Virginica, for instance, have yellow markings. Xylocopa Californica, found in the state of California is bluish black in colour.
Social Habits of Carpenter Bees vs Bumblebees
If you spot a group of bees hovering around your house, playing amongst themselves, you are looking at bumblebees. Bumblebees are sociable creatures which are known for living in large colonies. They nest in abandoned rodent burrows, grounds and such places in groups or colonies.
On the other hand, carpenter bees are solitary creatures which prefer living in pairs. The female carpenter bees dig burrows into the wood to lay the eggs inside them. The male carpenter bees have the responsibility to protect the nest and their female counterparts take care of the food for larvae. Though you can spot the males darting on anyone coming near the nest, they are not equipped with a stinger to cause any harm.
Where do these bees live?
Bumblebees and carpenter bees have completely different nesting habits. While bumblebees prefer nesting in colonies with fellow bees, carpenter bees are solitary creatures and hence, they dig burrows in the wood outside house and trees to live in pairs.
While both prepare their nests in the spring, bumblebees nest underground, usually in burrows abandoned by other rodents. During spring, a queen bee which has survived winters will come out and find a suitable nest to lay eggs. The colony will keep on expanding until summer ends. They protect and provide for larvae till they survive.
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Carpenter bees drill holes in withered softwood frames to lay eggs. These tunnel-like burrows are a network of branches where the female lays eggs and protects them. The adult bees feed the larvae until they undergo metamorphosis and transform into young bees.
Both the bees hibernate during winters.
What do these bees feed upon?
The carpenter bees and bumblebees have, more or less, the same food. They prepare “bee bread”. Bee bread is a mixture of pollen grains and nectar they collect from flowering plants.
Do they sting?
Yes. They are bees and all bees sting. Then again, when it comes to carpenter bee vs bumblebee, they differ in stinging patterns.
All bumblebees prefer hovering around their nests to protect the eggs they have laid inside. Therefore, they get agitated when you try to go near the nest and might attack. Bumblebees get agitated easily and
In case of carpenter bees, what you see hovering around the nests is the male carpenter bee, who is responsible for protecting the nest. It does get aggressive when its territory is intruded, but it cannot sting because it does not have a stinger. Its female counterpart is equipped with a stinger and can sting without dying. But they are less likely to do so because they lose their reproductive abilities once they sting someone. Hence, they need serious provocation to sting.
Unlike honeybees, which have stings which get detached from the body after they sting someone, carpenter bees and bumblebees have stings which don’t get detached. Therefore, you can get stung by one bee multiple times in one go. Painful. Right?
When it comes to carpenter bee vs bumblebee, it is the bumblebee which you should fear more because they stay in groups and are more likely to attack in groups too when agitated. Amongst the former, male carpenter bees dart upon the intruder but those are just empty threats because they cannot sting. Female carpenter bees, on the other hand, are equipped with a stinger but are less likely to sting due to the fear of losing their reproductive abilities.
Effective Ways to Treat a Bee Sting
A bee sting is like the by-product of not addressing the bees nesting outside your house for a long time. They are bees who can get aggressive anytime they feel that you might prove harmful to their nests and sting. Bee stings cause a lot of pain and can even prove deadly for people who are allergic to bee venom.
Bee sting leads to instant pain, swelling, redness and sensitivity initially. The pain and swelling become dull with time and even quicker if you apply a cool pack on it. Though the sensitivity will take a few days to wither away.
Another effective technique to treat the bee sting is to consume antihistamines and painkillers to get rid of the swelling and pain, respectively.
In case you are allergic to wasp or bee venom, it is better to visit the emergency room immediately to avoid worse situations.
Damage caused by carpenter bees
Carpenter bees are known for their ability to carve near perfect tunnels in unpainted or untreated softwood and trees outside your homes. In the spring season, adult carpenter bees find a wood which can be excavated after mating to lay eggs in it. Though carpenter bees are a solitary creature, therefore, their nests aren’t much of a trouble. Yet, carpenter bees cause millions of dollars of damage to houses every year due to the below-listed reasons:
Carpenter bee nests attract woodpeckers. Woodpeckers love to eat carpenter bee larvae and hence, they can enhance the damage to wood done by bees. No one wants a bird pecking its way into their home’s woodwork.
If a big carpenter bee or several carpenter bees decide to infest your house, the branching of the tunnels might lead to hollowing of the wood.
Female carpenter bees are always on the lookout for abandoned burrows because it is a taxing task to dig a new one. Even cumulative usage of the same nest by the bees year after year will rot the wood early.
Methods to Prevent Bees from Nesting in your Home
Drilling perfectly round holes into the wood is certainly a marvellous skill carpenter bees possess. Then again, it is better that you follow some measures to let them display these skills somewhere else but your house.
Keep the garage doors and other entrances shut during the spring season.
Do not consume sugary drinks outdoor and keep the dustbins clean and away from the house to keep the insects away.
Fill in the holes dug in by the rodents or nesting spaces of other insects in time so that they cannot be used again the following year.
Consult a good pest control service if the infestation gets worse.
Few methods you can adopt specifically to deal with carpenter bees are:
Employ pressure treated wood outside your house as it is difficult for bees to infiltrate those.
Paint or treat the wood with polyurethane chemical as this not only protects the wood from rotting, it also repels insects of all kinds.
Varnish the wood as its smell repels the carpenter bees.
One way to keep the carpenter bees away is to distract them by installing birdhouses and wooden posts made up of redwood, cedar, cypress and pine around the house. This will distract the bees as softwoods are easier for them to nest in.
Siding the frames and woodwork with plastic, aluminium and vinyl is also an effective technique as carpenter bees cannot drill a tunnel across those.
Are Bumblebees and Carpenter Bees Harmful?
Even if it fills you with joy to see them buzzing around your flowerbeds, you might not want to mess with them because they might turn aggressive and sting. The sting of a bumblebee or a carpenter bee can cause intense pain if not treated in time. It can also prove deadly for people who are allergic to bee venom. Not to overlook the millions of dollars of damage to homes caused by the nesting of carpenter bees every year.
Steps to Get Rid of Carpenter Bee Burrows
Carpenter bees can cause serious damage to the wood outside your house if not addressed in time. The burrows built by carpenter bees are marvelled at. Still, they are no good if you are left with rags in a few years instead of the wooden frame of your house. If addressed in time, it is not a tough job to get rid of the burrows dug by carpenter bees. Steps which you should follow are:
First and foremost challenge is to identify that if the bees in your yard are carpenter bees. Carpenter bees resemble with bumblebees in appearance but their upper abdomen is shiny and hairless unlike the fuzzy one of the bumblebee. Another fact that will tell them apart is if they are nesting on ground or wood. Carpenter bees live in pairs and nest in holes they dig in the wood.
Then, you should work on figuring out the spot where they are nesting. The easiest way is when you see a bee entering or exiting the nest. The nests themselves are easily identifiable as they are a ½ inch, round holes in wood which is more than 2 inches wide. They prefer unstained softwood.
Next step is to puff the holes with the insecticidal dust. Insecticidal dust is a dry powder-like form of contact insecticide which kills the insects when they come in contact with the dust. You can use a duster to make sure that the dust coats the inside and sides of the hole properly. Once dusted, the bees will carry the chemical in each branch of the nest with itself.
The ideal time to apply insecticidal dust on the burrows is when the holes are abandoned or at nights when the bees are inactive. If you want to do it during the day, make sure that you wear proper gear and protect your face with and hands from chemicals and stings. Spray wasp spray beforehand. Dispose of any contaminated clothing with care so that it doesn’t harm you or others.
To get rid of the bees completely, apply insecticidal dust on the burrows once in spring, then in mid-summer and once more in early-autumn, when survivors are done hibernating.
The last step is to fill the holes with wood putty or dowels and painting the wood to avoid further troubles.
There you go! All you need to know about carpenter bees vs bumblebees are at your disposal. Now, all you need to do is, stay safe and keep your home protected this spring.