Carpenter Bee Habits and Habitat Carpenter bees (the genus Xylocopa in the subfamily Xylocopinae) are large bees distributed worldwide. There are some 500 species of carpenter bee in 31 subgenera. Their name comes from the fact that nearly all species build their nests in burrows in dead wood, bamboo, or structural timbers (except those in the subgenus Proxylocopa, which nest in the ground). Members of the related tribe Ceratinini are sometimes referred to as "small carpenter bees". In several species, the females live alongside their own daughters or sisters, creating a small social group. They use wood bits to form partitions between the cells in the nest. A few species bore holes in wood dwellings. Since the tunnels are near the surface, structural damage is generally minor or nonexistent. Carpenter bees do not eat wood. They excavate the tunnels for shelter and as chambers in which to rear their young. They usually attack unpainted objects such as doors, windowsills, roof eaves, shingles, railings, telephone poles, and sometimes wooden lawn furniture. A carpenter bee begins her nest by drilling a nearly perfectly round entrance hole (about 1/2 inch diameter) into the wood. This hole is usually against the grain of the wood. When the tunnel is about 1 inch deep, the bee turns at right angles to the initial hole and tunnels with the grain of the wood. Bees prefer to attack wood that is greater than two inches thick. Diet Carpenter bees can be important pollinators on open-faced flowers, even obligate pollinators on some, such as the Maypop, though many species are also known to "rob" nectar by slitting the sides of flowers with deep corollas.In the late-spring and early summer, homeowners often notice large, black bees hovering around the outside of their homes. These are probably carpenter bees searching for mates and favorable sites to construct their nests. Male carpenter bees are quite aggressive, often hovering in front of people who are around the nests. Description The males are quite harmless, however, since they lack stingers. Female carpenter bees can inflict a painful sting but seldom will unless they are handled or molested. Carpenter bees resemble bumble bees, but the upper surface of their abdomen is bare and shiny black; bumble bees have a hairy abdomen with at least some yellow markings. Despite their similar appearance, the nesting habits of the two types of bees are quite different. Bumble bees usually nest in the ground whereas carpenter bees tunnel into wood to lay their eggs. Bare, unpainted or weathered softwoods are preferred, especially redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. Painted or pressure-treated wood is much less susceptible to attack. Common nesting sites include eaves, window trim, facia boards, siding, wooden shakes, decks and outdoor furniture. To avoid possible stings, treat the area at night.