Picture of a male Carpenter Bee used with permission from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/63/Xylocopa-varipuncta-male.jpg


How do they get their name?    

Xylocopa varipuncta, also known as the carpenter bee, gets its common name from the habitat it chooses to live in.  The name Carpenter Bee can apply to a handful of species in the X. genus. The other more well-known species is X. virginica which is known to be in Missouri (University of Missouri Extension 2007). X. varipuncta is found more in west coast areas like California and studies have been conducted on its choice of nest location in regards to reproduction in Tucson, Arizona (Minckley 1990).

Where do I find them?

Most people find the insect flying around wooden structures of their home. The bee seems to prefer certain structures such as the edges of roofs, decks, and gables of their homes (University of Missouri Extension 2007). They also seem to prefer wood that is untreated and unfinished softwoods including redwood, cypress, Douglas fir, mimosa, ash, white pine, dead wood on trees, and cedar woods (Carpenter Bees) for constructing their nests but you may also find them in wood that is a harder wood or is treated and finished.

What is the nest for?

The way they construct their nests is the factor that really gives rise to the name “Carpenter Bee”, they use their strong jaws to tunnel through wood and off of the main tunnel, which can be several feet into the wood, they create sub tunnels. The females use the sub tunnels to lay their eggs and do this by building a large pollen ball to provide food for her offspring. She then deposits an egg near the pollen ball and seals the sub tunnel off using chewed wood from the excavation (ncsu.edu). Unlike termites, X. varipuncta do not consume the wood, rather they simply chew it up and spit it out in order to create a nest (Texas A&M Agrilife Extension 1989).

Behavior around nest

          Male and female carpenter bees also seem to have a specific behavior when around their nests. The males are very aggressive and will fly in the path of an intruder in attempts to scare them away; however, the aggressiveness of the male bee is just a bluff as they have no stingers to actually do damage with. On the contrary, female carpenter bees do have stingers but very rarely will they sting. The only way to get a female to sting you is to agitate it or handle it (Ukag 1994). They are otherwise docile in nature and care more about their offspring than the nest itself.

Female carpenter bee on top of a flower. Picture is used with permission from Wikipedia Commons