Carpenter bees in the habitat garden

Carpenter bee pollinating a blueberry ©Janet Allen
Carpenter bee pollinating a blueberry

Of course, carpenter bees aren't "bee-type," they're bees. They're considered to be a beneficial insect and an important pollinator, being early morning foragers.

As their name implies, they can drill holes in non-painted wood. I've read that they are less likely to drill holes in wood painted with oil-base paint (not stained wood).

If they persist, the hole can be covered with a painted strip of flashing or screening. (In other words, there usually are solutions other than killing them.)

Carpenter bee ©Janet Allen
Carpenter bee just minding his own business

We have quite a few around our yard and haven't had any problems. Perhaps one reason is that we have plenty of logs and other dead wood that may give them more attractive nesting places than our house might be.

Indeed, I've read that one of the recommended solutions is to provide some "safe" places for them to nest—in other words, soft wood.

All in all, they don't create problems on the scale that termites, for example, would create, and they are generally beneficial.

Carpenter bee ©Janet AllenA carpenter bee with its shiny abdomen

The other reason for some people's negative view of carpenter bees may be that the males can seem aggressive.

But despite their comical bluster, the males cannot sting! We know someone who enjoys tossing a pebble in the air and watching them chase it. We haven't had any luck doing this yet, but we appreciate the perspective.

Females can sting, but unless captured or handled roughly, they're usually too busy with their "chores" to bother.

Carpenter bee robbing nectar ©Janet AllenCarpenter bee robbing nectar from the spurs of the columbine

Robbing nectarWe have seen carpenter bees robbing nectar. Why do they call this robbing nectar? Because it's violating the "contract" between plant and insect. It's taking the flower's nectar without pollinating the plant.

The carpenter bee doesn't always do that, though, and it's still considered an important pollinator, and we need to preserve all the native pollinators we can if we're going to preserve our food system.

So far, given that we have had no problems with the many carpenter bees in our yard, our approach is just to coexist and appreciate their pollination services.