CARPENTER BEE VISITS ARE BRIEF AND STINGS ARE RARE
By Chris Williams on April 25, 2017.
We have a couple of bumble bees that seem to be burrowing into the teak table on our back deck. Whenever we get near, they dive bomb us. I’m worried that the kids are going to be stung. I don’t want to get rid of the table, is there anything we can do? L. C., Raymond, NH
First off, I’m pretty sure that you are dealing with carpenter bees, not bumble bees. They look very similar but bumble bees have a fuzzy abdomen while the top surface of a carpenter bee’s abdomen is shiny, black, and hairless. They are mainly differentiated though by their habits. Bumble bees are social bees that live in a colony in the ground and carpenter bees are solitary bees that nest in pairs in soft, weathered, unpainted wood. Both bees are beneficial pollinators. See Is It a Carpenter Bee or Bumble Bee? for more clues.
A SINGLE FEMALE CONSTRUCTS THE NEST GALLERY
What you are seeing is probably the male carpenter bee, or maybe two males from two nesting pairs. It’s the male’s job to guard the nest site during construction and he does so aggressively. But not to worry, the male cannot sting (see Male Carpenter Bees Are “In Your Face,” But Can’t Sting!). He relies on his “bark,” since he has no bite. The female carpenter bee does have a stinger but she is not aggressive, she is much too busy digging her nest gallery in your teak table and she’s assuming her mate will take care of any threats.
Regarding your table and your ability to enjoy your deck this spring and summer: the good news is that carpenter bee nest activity is short-lived. It takes the female about a week to chew the dime-sized opening, construct a burrow 4-6 inches long, and then collect pollen for each of 6 to 8 larval cells for her brood. Once the nest gallery is provisioned and eggs are laid, the opening is sealed and the pair move on. I imagine that by the time you read this, all will be quiet on your deck.
COLONIAL CAN PROTECT YOUR DECK AND FURNITURE
However, now you have developing carpenter bee larvae inside your table. Later in the summer, they will chew their way out of the gallery as fully-developed carpenter bees. If that idea bothers you, give Colonial Pest a call. We can treat the nest opening with an insecticide that will kill the larvae inside. To prevent a repeat performance next spring, you should have us treat the underside of your table (where the bees like to burrow) and any other susceptible softwoods on or around your deck and home in early spring (see Yes, Carpenter Bees Can Nest Again in Your Deck). Sometimes, staining, sealing, or oiling unfinished woods can keep carpenter bees from chewing into the wood for nest sites.