Are you among that group of people terrified by bee stings? If so, the sight of a fully developed carpenter bee could be enough to throw you into a panic. Carpenter bees look menacing because of their size and coloration. But do carpenter bees sting? Carpenter bees can sting, and they sometimes do.
Carpenter bees are just one of approximately 16,000 recognized bee species. They are solitary creatures, meaning they do not live in large colonies like honeybees. Rarely do you see them swarm, even in small groups. But that doesn’t mean they can’t sting. As mentioned above, they can, and they sometimes do.
Recognizing a Carpenter Bee
Before we get into whether carpenter bees sting, it might be helpful to figure out exactly what we are talking about. Why? Because carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees. The two species look similar, but not identical.
A carpenter bee is a larger bee with a mostly black body. The head and abdomen are both black, but there tends to be a yellowish area between the two. This area does look furry to the naked eye. Note that it is the combination of black and yellow that tends to confuse people.
Bumblebees are also black and yellow. However, their bodies tend to alternate the colors. The head is black, followed by a yellow strip, another black patch, another yellow strip, and so on. The easiest way to distinguish between a bumblebee and a carpenter bee is the hair. A bumblebee’s body is almost entirely covered with hair, giving it a very furry appearance. On the other hand, a carpenter bee’s body is shiny and smooth.
Carpenter Bees and Stinging
All bee species with stingers use those stingers as a defense mechanism. However, note that it is rare that bees will sting unprovoked. As for carpenter bees, their solitary nature makes them a naturally less aggressive species. Rarely do carpenter bees sting human beings or large animals. More often than not, their stingers are reserved for invading insects.
The other thing to note is that male carpenter bees do not have stingers. They can defend a nest by buzzing around and making a nuisance of themselves. Their size is enough to intimidate most threatening species. On the other hand, females do have stingers that they are more than willing to use if necessary.
The most likely scenario of a carpenter bee stinging a human being would be one in which a person was poking around in a nest. Being solitary creatures, carpenter bees are very careful to protect their nests against invaders. Stick your finger in a borehole created by a carpenter bee and there is a good chance you will get stung.
Painful But Not Dangerous
Carpenter bee stings are painful but not dangerous – unless you are allergic to bee stings. An allergic reaction could include things like swollen glands, the appearance of hives, and difficulty breathing. Even mild symptoms of allergic reaction are motivation enough to seek medical care after being stung.
For everyone else, a carpenter bee sting is more a nuisance than anything else. Stingers inject venom, so the first thing to do following a stinging incident is to check to see if the stinger is embedded in the skin. If so, removing it as quickly as possible will minimize the pain. After that, the sting site should not be covered. It is okay to wash it with soap and water but leave it alone after that.
The best thing for bee stings is your own immune response. Leaving the site of a sting exposed to fresh air helps it heal faster. If the pain is uncomfortable, an over-the-counter pain reliever should take care of it.
How to Avoid Being Stung
The best way to avoid being stung by a carpenter bee is to leave it alone. Again, most bee species will not sting unless threatened. Carpenter bees are a bit easier to deal with because they usually only feel threatened if someone is messing with their nests. Avoid their nests and all is well.
Carpenter bees are so named because they are boring insects. They do not build large, honeycombed hives like other species. Instead, the female carpenter bee will bore into wood, where she will then construct individual chambers and deposit her eggs. Generally speaking, a female will only deposit five or six eggs at a time.
The borehole left behind by a carpenter bee should be almost perfectly circular. In terms of diameter, it is about the size of the average adult finger. Freshly bored holes may have what appear to be small piles of sawdust underneath them. This is a sign that a nest is active. It is also a sign to not stick your finger in the hole.
Do carpenter bees sting? They can, if provoked. Yet it is rare for humans and large animals to be stung by them. If you leave carpenter bees alone, they will leave you alone. That is pretty much it.