Eastern Carpenter Bee

eastern carpenter bee on wisteria flowers

Photo: Brice Praslicka
Species: Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Flower: Wisteria
Click the image above or here for full resolution.

Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees – they are about the same size and shape after all. However, they couldn’t be more different.

Believe it or not, bumblebees often make their nests in burrows they dig into the ground or in piles of wood and other debris. They also tend to stay fairly active and in large groups. Carpenter bees are a little more reclusive. They’ll dig out their nest in an old log (hardwood or softwood), mate, lay their eggs and then the male guards the nest as the female hunts for food to create “bee bread” so their young has something to eat when they hatch.

Carpenter bees also have some unique behaviors not seen in bumblebees. They’re extremely docile – the male doesn’t even have a stinger, and the female will not sting you unless you hold them or extremely agitate them. They also are very territorial. Whether it’s by their nest or their favorite flowering bush, you’ll often see carpenter bees hovering perfectly in place. They wait until other flying insects come by and then proceed to chase them off – even butterflies!

They might look big and scary, but they’re one of the coolest, most gentle bees you’ll encounter.

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