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Bumblebee Versus Carpenter Bee

a carpenter bee on a flower
For most people, when you hear or see a bee buzzing about, the first instinct is to get away. No one wants to get stung, and some people are allergic to a bee’s sting. But, not all bees are the same. Consider two common types you likely encounter around your home: bumblebees and carpenter bees.

Bumblebee Nests

You have probably seen large bees with yellow and black stripes flitting around shrubs and flowers. These are most likely bumblebees, which can also be white and black. They have hairy bodies right down to their bellies and love to spend time with other bumblebees.
These bees usually make their nests underground, either in soil or under trash, like dumps. Unlike other types of bees, bumblebees don’t make enough honey to sell, though they do make some. These bees get almost all of their food from flowers and are known to be helpful pollinators. The plants that benefit most from bumblebees are usually found in areas with cooler temperatures.
Bumblebee nests are relatively small with a couple hundred bees sharing the space. You can find their nests in places with loose and fibrous material like insulation, grass clippings or mouse nests. The communities are not long-lasting, with the colonies breaking up each year and only the fertilized queen staying in the nest over the winter. She will then start a new nest in spring or early summer.
Because bumblebee nests are found in the ground, be careful when it’s time to mow the lawn or do other lawn care. If you are noticing an increase in bumblebees in your lawn or around your landscaping, give a licensed pest professional a call to get their expert opinion on solutions.

Bumblebee Behavior

These bees don’t match honey bees in number or in temperament. Where honey bees can be very defensive, bumblebees are a bit more easygoing. Only female bumblebees can sting, and they generally don’t sting unless someone or something disturbs their nests. When they feel threatened in this situation, bumblebees can be quite aggressive. This is why getting a professional to inspect your lawn can be important.
Bumblebees’ sting is, of course, painful, but it is generally harmless, causing only local swelling. If you or someone else notice mouth swelling, tightness in the throat, trouble breathing, dizziness, vomiting, fainting, quick heartbeat or hives, seek medical help immediately.
This bee’s sting doesn’t have a barb, so even when it stings you it can pull back the stinger without it detaching from its abdomen. That means the bee can sting several times instead of just once.
Though bumblebees can be helpful for some plants and are generally mild-mannered, there is always a risk of them stinging you or your loved ones. A licensed pest control professional can talk to you about the best plan of action to keep your family safe while you enjoy your outdoor space.

Carpenter Bees

These bees look like bumblebees, large in size with yellow and black coloring, and the two are often confused. Carpenter bees can be identified by their solid, shiny black tail section.

Carpenter bees also differ from bumblebees in the way they live. Honey bees and bumblebees live together in colonies, but adult carpenter bees spend winters in their own tunnels. Those that survive the winter emerge in spring. Fertilized female carpenter bees bore into wood and make another tunnel where they lay the eggs.

The entrance to these holes are round and about as big around as a person’s little finger. If you see holes like this in wood around your home, you likely have carpenter bees. To know for sure, call in a licensed professional for an inspection and pest control plan.

How Do You Get Rid of Carpenter Bees?

The best plan is to deter the carpenter bees from boring into wood areas and items around your home. They are important pollinators in nature, feasting on the pollen of flowers, and they are a necessary part of the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean you want them digging into your home’s siding or into the trees that dot your property.
Carpenter ants are not usually as destructive as termites can be but they do damage wood. They can damage wood cosmetically or even structurally, depending on how many bees there are and how often they return to the same spot. If the bees keep coming back to a certain tree or piece of trim, their tunnels will ruin the structural integrity of the tree or trim. Having holes in wood also encourages mold and rot to grow and spread.

Deterring Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees do not typically attack hardwoods, so using this wood for your home’s siding and trim, or planting them in your yard, will help discourage the bees from setting up their own home there. If you have any depressions or cracks in wood surfaces on your home or other buildings, fill them in to make it less likely that the bees will settle in. Make sure to paint or varnish exposed wood surfaces. This reduces weathering, which in turn reduces the chances that bees will attack.

If you see holes that indicate these bees have already moved in, wait until they emerge and then fill them in with steel wool and caulk. That will keep carpenter bees from returning to use the tunnels again. Taking these steps will usually help deter bees without having to resort to insecticides that will harm the bees.

Sometimes you will have a heavy infestation and need help with carpenter bees. In these cases, insecticides might be needed to go along with the preventative measures listed above. In such cases, it is best to treat the existing tunnels where adult bees live early in the spring. Don’t try using insecticides during late spring and summer because the bees seal the tunnels. Once the pesticide has worn off, the bees will just chew their way out. A licensed pest control professional can give you the best estimate of a timetable for when to treat these pests.

a carpenter bee on a flower

Do Carpenter Bees Sting?

Carpenter bees can seem intimidating, especially the males that swarm around people who come near nesting sites. This variety of bees isn’t as likely to sting you as other bees that live in groups. In any case, male carpenter bees won’t hurt you since the male bees cannot sting.

Female carpenter bees, however, can definitely sting, and it can be painful. The good news is that they aren’t generally aggressive and only sting when people bother them or try to handle them. Carpenter bees are able to sting more than once, and if you or a loved one is stung multiple times, it is best to seek medical attention.

For most people, a single sting from a carpenter bee will hurt and likely swell, but it won’t need professional help. After a sting, check to see if the stinger is still in the skin. If it is, take a fingernail and scrape it along the skin to get it out. If you leave it in, more venom will release and the sting will hurt even more. Once the stinger is gone, you can clean the area with soap and water but then leave that area of your skin to dry. Fresh air helps with healing. For swelling, try an ice pack.

Some people are allergic to bee stings, and for those folks, it is important to get medical help immediately. Many people with such life-threatening allergies carry emergency medication to help reduce the reaction as well.

The best way to prevent a carpenter bee’s sting is to stay away from them. If you notice an increasing number of these bees hovering around your home or yard or see the telltale signs that the bees are moving into your trees and siding, call in the experts. A licensed pest control professional will thoroughly inspect all suspected nesting areas and formulate a plan to remove carpenter bees and keep your family safe.

ABC Can Get Rid of Your Bee Issues

Seeing bees on your property can be frightening. Instead of trying to handle the bee problem on your own, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our pest control professionals can effectively remove these pests, so you don’t have to worry about painful stings.

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