California is home to 3 species of carpenter bees, the California Carpenter bee, the Mountain Carpenter bee, and the Valley Carpenter bee. Females are large, black and shiny (left). The male Valley Carpenter bee is all golden brown and fuzzy and is so called the teddy bear bee (right)!
Carpenter bees build their nests in wood and are relatively long-lived, with some females living several years. Female carpenter bees excavate nests in trellises, old flowering stalks of Agave, or any large piece of untreated wood. They fill the nests with nectar and pollen, lay their eggs (which are up to 2/3” long!), then separate the cells with partitions made of sawdust.
Some of their favorite plants include Wisteria sinensis, Salvia melissodora, Cercis occidentalis, and Parkinsonia spp. They also visit flowers illegally if they can’t fit in them properly. Their spear-like tongues pierce the base of flowers to drink the sweet nectar, essentially bypassing the reproductive parts of the flower – we call this nectar-robbing. Honey bees have taken to using these holes made by the carpenter bees and are called secondary robbers.
These large bees can sometimes be intimidating, but are very docile. Males are territorial and often set up outside nests in search of females. They may buzz around your head to check you out, but don’t forget, male bees can’t sting!! We've still seen a few of these guys buzzing in our garden, what about you?