“Carpenter bee” refers to hundreds of species of bees that make their nests in wood.
The specific behavior and appearance of each species may vary according to where it lives. For the most part, all carpenter bees tunnel into wood and live alone or with small family units instead of creating a hive.
Carpenter bees aren’t typically dangerous, especially if you leave them alone. This article will cover ways to identify carpenter bees, treat a sting from a carpenter bee, and what to do to avoid getting stung.
If you see a carpenter bee coming toward you, darting and buzzing aggressively, it’s probably a male. Male carpenter bees don’t have a stinger, so they’ll put on a threatening display as a defense mechanism.
Female carpenter bees do have stingers that contain venom, and they’re able to sting more than once.
Females tend to stay close to their eggs, so you’re unlikely to encounter them unless you disturb their nest. Female carpenter bees will only sting if they’re directly provoked.
Carpenter bee stingers contain bee venom. When a carpenter bee stings you, you’ll immediately feel a sharp pain and a burning sensation at the site of the sting and the surrounding area of skin.
Because carpenter bees don’t lose their stinger after they attack, you won’t have to remove a stinger from your skin. But as soon as you get stung by a carpenter bee, you should begin treating the area.
- Clean the area of the sting to prevent infection. Use soap and lukewarm water to rinse the skin around the sting, and pat it dry.
- You will want to keep inflammation from the sting down as much as possible. Use a cold compress, a cold gel pack, or a cold washcloth on your skin to soothe inflammation.
- If pain persists, you may want to take ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or another over-the-counter pain medication. You may also want to apply an antihistamine cream like Benadryl to reduce swelling.
Carpenter bees are able to sting more than once. If you or your child have multiple bee stings, seek immediate medical attention.
Signs of a bee sting allergy
A bee sting allergy means getting stung is a medical emergency. Difficulty breathing, a swollen tongue, nausea or dizziness, and loss of consciousness are all signs of anaphylaxis and can indicate that an allergic reaction is occurring.
If someone is exhibiting signs of a bee sting allergy, call 911 or local emergency services immediately. While you wait for emergency help to arrive:
- Administer epinephrine (EpiPen) if the person has a bee sting kit available.
- Roll the person onto their back and elevate their fee above their heart if signs of shock are present.
- Reassure the individual, and keep them warm and comfortable.
- Monitor vital signs such as breathing and pulse, and be ready to administer CPR if necessary.
The best way to prevent getting stung by a carpenter bee is to avoid the insects, if you can. If you spot a carpenter bee’s nest, don’t use your hands to try to dislodge or remove it.
Carpenter bees tend to reuse the same areas of wood for their nests, year after year. You may be able to figure out where they like to nest and avoid touching their preferred nesting place.
Insecticide can be carefully inserted directly into the hole the bee uses as her nest entrance if you can figure out where she’s holed up.
Nail holes, unpainted wood, and other exposed wood surfaces are attractive places for carpenter bees to build their nests. Wood stain, paint, and sealants can all prevent carpenter bees from nesting in your deck, patio, and outdoor spaces.
If a carpenter bee lands on you, try not to make any sudden movements. Remain calm, and wait for the bee to fly away.
When spending time outdoors, make sure to dispose of any garbage immediately. Fruit juice, fruit pits, and other sweet-smelling snacks can attract bees, so be mindful of that when you’re packing a picnic.
Carpenter bees look similar to bumblebees, and it’s easy to confuse the two.
Carpenter bees in the United States tend to be more black than yellow and have a smooth, shiny black abdomen.
Bumblebees, by contrast, have fuzzy yellow abdomens covered in hair. Carpenter bees also have thick black hair on their hind legs.
Carpenter bees are most active during the spring, coming out in April and May in the northern hemisphere to find partners and mate. Female carpenter bees will then nest, lay their eggs, and die shortly after.
By August, the eggs have hatched and developed into adults. After a short period of activity during the late summer, the bees return to shelter in their nest until the following spring when the life cycle starts over again.
A carpenter bee sting is about as painful as any other type of bee sting. Carpenter bees can sting more than once, which makes getting stung slightly more concerning.
You can usually treat a carpenter bee sting at home, and symptoms will be gone within 24 hours.
In the case of a bee sting allergy or multiple bee stings, you should seek immediate medical attention.