The Xylocopa genus is comprised of around 500 documented bee species, including several species that are considered structural pests due to their destructive habit of carving out nesting galleries within structural wood, cosmetic wood, and other types of woodwork. Most bees in the Xylocopa genus excavate nests in both live and dead wood found in the natural environment, such as stumps, logs and fallen branches, and a majority are non-native species in the US that originate from Africa. Unfortunately, several species in this genus have extended their non-native habitat into urban and suburban areas in the US where they have become accustomed to excavating nesting tunnels within both sound and decaying sources of seasoned hardwood and softwood on properties. It is these species that are generally referred to as “carpenter bees,” and the types of woodwork most commonly damaged by these relatively large bee pests include wood siding, patios, wood rails, fence posts, unpainted wood beneath the eaves of homes, and in some cases, interior structural wood within wall voids.
The strong jaws possessed by female carpenter bees allow them to excavate nesting tunnels into wood where they deposit their eggs. While females are capable of stinging, they are not typically aggressive, and they are not known for using their sharp and oversized mandibles for biting. Males, on the other hand, are very aggressive, as they are tasked with protecting nests, and although males do not sting, they are known for darting into people’s faces when they become threatened. Two carpenter bee species, Xylocopa micans and X. virginica, are considered economically significant structural pests in Georgia, and they are more commonly known as “southern carpenter bees,” and “eastern carpenter bees,” respectively. Like most Xylocopa bee species, the southern carpenter bee is relatively large at around 1 inch in length, give or take a few millimeters, and they are largely black and shiny with the exception of a white band of hair covering their abdomen. The eastern carpenter bee is slightly smaller than its southern counterpart, but this size difference is rarely perceptible. Unlike the southern variety, eastern carpenter bees are largely metallic with a black band of abdominal hair on females, and a yellow band of hair on males. Males also feature yellow dots on their face.
Have you ever found carpenter bees around your home?