A bee buzzing around your head for most of us will spark an immediate awareness that there is potential to be stung. We know this can be a very real concern if it is a wasp or a honey bee, but what about carpenter bees, do they sting, and does it hurt?
Yes, carpenter bees do sting. Only female carpenter bees have stingers and can sting multiple times. Carpenter bees aren’t aggressive, however, if they sting, it will hurt. The pain is from the venom that contains approximately 50% Melittin. Pain intensity varies from person to person.
Read on to learn about the carpenter bee’s stinging habits.
Do Carpenter Bees Have Stingers?
As we concluded above, only the female carpenter bee has stingers. A sting from a female bee is unlikely, however, if provoked or threatened she has the ability to sting you multiple times.
The male carpenter bees don’t have a stinger and therefore cant sting. They may bump into you, but they can’t hurt you.
Carpenter bees, their stingers are used strictly for defense.
With the exception of being unnecessarily aggravated or stepped on, they rarely use their stingers when they are away from the hive foraging. As a modified ovipositor, the worker bees use their stinger for defense while it is for laying eggs for other insects like queen bees.
When Do Carpenter Bees Sting?
Though the female carpenter bee does not get easily threatened, she will defend herself whenever she feels terrorized. The bee might sting you if you wave your hands frantically to scare her off or swat at her with an object.
However, when you leave her alone and stay calm, she will do the same. She won’t be bothered by a curious passerby or observer since the buzzing creature is always busy searching for nectar or pollen.
The chances of encountering a female carpenter bee are unlikely as they stay close to their eggs unless someone disturbs their nest. The female carpenter bees also don’t reside in high traffic spots and prefer avoiding confrontation altogether.
Bees are also not active at night as they are getting their zzzs. As such, it is recommended to treat any nesting site or your yard at night while wearing protective gear.
Carpenter bees sting when you poke your fingers into their burrows or handle them. Male carpenter bees guard the nest by hovering outside the burrow exit, even though they are not equipped with stingers. The male bee will fly at you aggressively if you get too close. They also use their large size to drive people away from their nests.
You are most likely to spot a carpenter bee in the springtime when they are most active. During this time the male expands the species by mating with the females while the females prepare the nest.
The mating process involves the male seeking out females, then hovering over them. The male will impregnate the female after releasing hormones as the female passes underneath the male bee.
Are Carpenter Bees Aggressive?
When it comes to defending and protecting their nests, the male carpenter bees are quite aggressive even though they cannot sting. Due to the loud buzz and the bee’s large size, the dive-bomb type of attack tends to be quite intimidating. They will dart at any flying insects that come into their territory as they hover around their nests.
It tends to be hard to spot the carpenter bees’ nests sometimes since they make their homes in wood. They are quite protective and will chase away any insects that come close to their air space. They will often go after any small pebble you toss in front of them.
Male carpenter bees are especially aggressive towards other males since their interest is solely in females. If you wear a black dress, you will find this most obvious. Female carpenter bees are not furry but jet-black. Many people believe that the male carpenter bees are not aggressive but territorial and that it is their manner of diving or flying that tends to be aggressive.
How Do Carpenter Bees Sting?
The carpenter bee’s stinger remains attached after insertion, and they can sting multiple times as the stinger is smooth. the stinger is attached to two main glands, the Dufour’s gland, and the venom gland. They also produce mixed content of the injected venom.
Carpenter Bee Venom
Female carpenter bees can sting more than once, and their stingers contain venom. The carpenter bee’s sting can be quite painful, similar to that of the bumblebee.
The bee injects its venom into your body when it stings you, which results in the venom causing an immune reaction. People react differently to bee stings, with reactions varying from mild to severe.
For some people, the venom from the stinger, which contains allergins, can be very dangerous causing a severe anaphylactic reaction if untreated could even result in death.
You can experience a similarity in symptoms with a wasp sting and a bee sting. However, a mosquito bite tends to be more severe than them. A mild reaction may trigger some of these:
- A red, welted spot
- Sharp burning pain at the sting region
When it is a mild reaction, it will improve within hours of a sting, and the swelling, pain, and redness will subside. However, swelling and redness may last up to a week and are more severe with a moderate bee sting reaction.
Do All Carpenter Bees Sting?
The female bee will sting anyone who threatens her nest. Carpenter bees are not like honey bees because they don’t lose their stingers when they sting. Therefore, they can sting multiple times. Fortunately, most times, the female carpenter bees have much more important things to do than sting you.
Bees and wasps living in communal colonies are more inclined to sting than carpenter bees. They have a daunting presence, especially during nest construction and mating.
When someone is around nesting sites, the male carpenter bees will hover in front of them to intimidate them. However, males cannot sting and are harmless.
You can see other types of small solitary wasps and bees coming to abandoned bee nests. They are there to use the tunnels for shelter, scavenging on remaining pollen, and seldom cause problems.
Do Carpenter Bee Stings Hurt?
Yes, this can be quite a painful experience. When they sting, carpenter bees release venom that contains melittin. All bee venom contains this component, and it has a peptide that causes a burning sensation and pain. The venom will fool nerve cells to believe that they are on fire as it triggers heat sensors throughout the body.
The cell membrane may pop and swell by the melittin when it is in high doses. The part of the sting will be swollen and red immediately after a sting. This is usually followed by a sharp pain that lasts for some minutes. A dull ache will ensure when the pain subsides. You will have this dull ache for hours after the sting.
Carpenter bees rarely sting multiple times and hardly attack in swarms. Even though it isn’t lethal, the sting reactions can be excruciating. If you’re highly allergic to bee venom you could experience a severe reaction if stung by a carpenter bee.
Treating Carpenter Bee Stings
A typical reaction from a bee sting includes swelling, redness, and pain close to the wound site. Within a few hours, you will see that these symptoms will subside.
You can relieve the pain using ice and anti-itch cream. You may want to seek medical attention if you have an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
The reactions most people get from a bee sting are mild, and they subside within a few hours. You can treat your bee sting at home if the symptoms you experience are normal.
The first line of treating most bee stings is to gently remove the stinger from your skin immediately, which is a small black dot in the sting area.
Honey bees have barbed stingers and therefore remain in your skin. But the stingers of carpenter bees are smooth and stay attached to the insect. As such, they can sting you several times before flying away.
You won’t have any need to remove a stinger if a carpenter bee stings you. But pain, itching, swelling, and redness are all common at the bee sting site. You can do some of the following to alleviate the symptoms, keeping in mind to seek medical advice before using medications:
- Try an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication for pain
- Reduce itching and swelling with the use of an antihistamine
- Reduce swelling at the sting site using an ice pack
Look out for possible signs of anaphylaxis and understand that you need to go to the emergency department if you experience symptoms.
Carpenter Bee Stingers Compared To Other Bees
The male carpenter bees have impressive-sounding wings and a large physique enough to scare away potential threats by hovering around the entrance.
Females have a stinger which can be quite painful when administered. However, the female carpenter bees rarely sting and by nature are not aggressive.
As for ground bees, they will likely not sting anyone unless you dig into the ground where their nests are located, which will trigger the instinct to defend their nest. This situation is similar to mason, leafcutting, and mining bees with minimal risk of stings.
Africanized bees are quite different as they will attack any perceived threat with large numbers and sting them to death, inflicting hundreds of stings on any victim.
As for honey bees, they have barbed stingers meaning their stingers get stuck in the flesh when they sting someone, causing them to die when they fly away.
Carpenter Bee Stingers Vs. Honey Bee Stingers
Carpenter bees reside in wooden structures and trees where honey bees take up residence in external hives. Both bees have preferences for unpainted, sheltered wood surfaces, and as such, they can be a nuisance.
Apart from building huge colonies, they can cause significant damage to the structures and wood they reside in.
The honey bee has a thin wing, a fuzzy torso, and a small body, while carpenter bees closely resemble the bumble bee except for their hairless, shiny black abdomens.
Carpenter Bee Stingers Vs Bumblebee Stingers
Carpenter bees tend to be solitary when it comes to stinging, while bumblebees sting to protect their nest. As such, it is only the female carpenter bees that sting since they are primarily solitary bees.
Bumblebees will defend their nest aggressively. A bumblebee that dies due to stinging someone is known to be sterile, and this case doesn’t affect the reproduction level. Though it rarely does, a female carpenter bee can deliver a painful sting and rather reserve this defensive action to protect her nest.
If you are interested, we have a detailed comparison article examining the differences between carpenter bees, bumblebees, and honey bees.
Carpenter Bee Stingers vs. Mason Bee Stingers
Like the carpenter bee, a male mason bee does not sting at all, and it is only the females that will sting when they feel threatened. Like the carpenter bee, you have a low risk of a mason bee stinging you.
With their two sets of wings, mason bees are similar to small black flies. Carpenter bees don’t have hair on their abdomens, and they look like bumblebees with a darker color.
Do Carpenter Bees Sting Each Other Or Other Insects?
This situation can happen when a male carpenter bee is jousting for territory with the female carpenter bees. This case is also one of their courtship behaviors. The male carpenter bees will ensure that they defend their small area from anything that can come close to it.
With its single-minded pursuit of mating rights, the male will drive off rival bees, other insects, and even humans. The male will die soon after mating. Then, the female carpenter bees will begin to lay eggs for next year’s hatching.
The Wrap Up
The sting of a carpenter bee is the same as any other bee stings. It is more concerning to get stung since carpenter bees can sting you more than once.
Treating carpenter bee stings at home is easy, and symptoms will subside within 24 hours. However, seek medical attention in case of multiple stings, or you have a bee sting allergy.