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Carpenter Bees Are Active in Knoxville Area

undefinedOne of the most common sights during the early spring is carpenter bees.

Many people confuse carpenter bees with bumblebees. They’re pretty easy to distinguish one from the other. Carpenter bees have shiny abdomens. They’re shiny because they don’t have any hairs. A hairy abdomen would make it very difficult for a carpenter bee to squeeze in and out of their tunnels. Bumblebees, which generally nest in the ground, don’t have that restriction so their abdomens are quite hairy and dull looking.

Most of the time, when you see a carpenter bee, it probably will be a male hovering around a flower. The female would be busy establishing a nest for their kids. Those nests are always located in wood, and it’s the females that do the boring.

She’ll begin by chewing a 1-centimeter (half-inch) hole in a protected spot. She’ll bore in about 5 centimeters (2 inches), then take a 90 degree turn inside the wood and follow the grain. Once she’s excavated her gallery, she will establish a series of separate cells.

Meanwhile, the male stays outside the brood cells, bringing the female food and guarding her nesting site. If a carpenter bee decides to investigate you by buzzing around your head, it’s going to be a male. Their presence may be alarming, but the boy bees don’t have a sting and are harmless.

Inside the tunnel the female has made, she will place a series of large pollen balls which serve as food sources for her offspring. She’ll deposit one egg for each pollen ball then seal off each section with a thin screen of chewed wood.

The female continues to establish additional cells in this manner until the tunnel is completely filled. This usually means six to seven eggs. The last egg laid is the first to hatch (were it the other way around, the young carpenter bee at the end of the tunnel would have to bore through the other cells to emerge from the nest). After laying her eggs and sealing up her nest, the mother dies in a week or two. The young develop in five to seven weeks, with new adults emerging in late summer.

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