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carpenter bee

Carpenter Bees vs. Honey Bees: How to Tell the Difference

Carpenter bees and honey bees are commonly mistaken for one another, yet they have distinct differences. The most significant difference is carpenter bees burrow into wood, while honey bees produce honey and pollinate flowers.

Are you curious about how these differences impact their behavior and benefits? Keep reading to explore these kinds of bees and understand why each plays a crucial role uniquely.

Key Takeaways

  • Carpenter bees are solitary, have robust bodies, and can sting multiple times, while honey bees are highly social, slimmer, and die after stinging once.
  • Carpenter bees bore into wood to create nests, causing damage to wooden structures, whereas honey bees build organized wax combs in protected spaces like tree cavities.
  • Identifying signs of infestation can involve looking for round holes and sawdust for carpenter bees and swarming activity or honey seepage for honey bees.
  • Managing carpenter bees can be done using methods safe for honey bees, such as painting wood, using natural repellents, or setting up decoy nests.
  • Professional pest control involves a comprehensive approach that includes inspection, tailored treatment plans, safe removal, ongoing maintenance, and repair of damages caused by carpenter bees.

What Are Carpenter Bees?

Carpenter bees, like the Eastern Carpenter bees, are common in Florida. They are distinguished by their robust size and ability to bore into wood. Unlike termites, they do not consume wood but excavate tunnels to create nests.

Although they are less aggressive than other bees, male carpenter bees can be territorial and may hover near people who approach their nesting sites.

What Are Honey Bees?

Honey bees in Florida came from European species. They are prolific social insects, pollinating many crops and wild plants to support the state's agricultural economy.

In residential areas, they often swarm during spring when colonies split, and new queens lead a group to establish a new hive.

Carpenter Bees vs. Honey Bees

carpenter vs honey bee comparison

While both are crucial for pollination, Carpenter bees and honey bees differ significantly in appearance, behavior, and pollination activities.

Physical Characteristics

Knowing their physical differences is essential for correctly identifying these bee species, which can affect how they are managed in different environments.

Here’s how they differ:


Carpenter Bees

Honey Bees


12-25 mm

10-15 mm


Robust thorax, large-bodied

Slimmer, more rounded thorax

Primary Colors

Shiny black, metallic blue, green

Golden yellow, and black


Present in female carpenter bees, smooth stinger

Present in female honey bees, barbed stinger,

Sting Frequency

Female carpenter bees sting multiple times

Female honey bees can sting once and then die

Distinct Markings

Minimal to no markings

Striped patterns

Distinguishing Features

Smooth, shiny black abdomen

Fuzzy body with hairy abdomen

Behavioral and Nesting Habits

Their typical behaviors differ widely due to their social structures and daily activities. Often influenced by their environments and reproductive strategies, here’s how they differ:

Behavioral Aspects

Carpenter Bees

Honey Bees

Social Structure

Solitary bees, females burrow for nesting

Highly social insects, live in large colonies

Typical Activities

Females dig into wood to lay eggs

Foraging for nectar and pollen, producing honey

Preferred Habitats

Wood structures, dead trees

Hives in hollow spaces, like tree cavities

Nest Construction

Bore holes into wood to create tunnels

Construct wax combs in organized hives


Both types of bees play critical roles in pollinating agricultural and flowering plants but have different methods and preferences. Here’s why they’re excellent pollinators in North America:

Pollination Factors

Carpenter Bees

Honey Bees


Effective but has a limited scope

Highly effective due to large colonies

Preferred Plants

Open-faced flowers

Wide variety, including agricultural crops


Buzz pollination (vibrating flowers)

Collecting pollen into hives

Identifying the Signs of Bee Activities

While both species of bees play a role in the ecosystem, knowing this distinction is crucial as it impacts the method of addressing the problem.

Signs of Carpenter Bee Infestation

As homeowners in Florida, you should first be certain you’re dealing with a carpenter bee infestation, not honeybees. Look for these signs of these native bees:

  • Round Holes: Look for round holes in redwood or other wooden structures.
  • Sawdust: Piles of sawdust beneath the holes on surfaces.
  • Sight of Bees: Male carpenter bees hover near the nest entrance to prevent potential threats.
  • Wooden Surfaces: Damage on eaves, decks, and other wood surfaces.
  • Nests: Spot the presence of carpenter bee nests within the wooden structures.
  • Structural Damage: Long-term infestations can weaken wooden structures.

Presence of Honeybees

Consider these telltale signs that indicate the presence of honey bees around your property:

  • Bee Nest: Check for large, visible nests in wall cavities or hollows.
  • Swarming: Observe swarming activity near potential nesting sites.
  • Honey: Presence of honey seepage from wall joints or other gaps.

Managing Carpenter Bee Infestations Without Harming Honey Bees

Carpenter bees can be a nuisance, especially for homeowners in Florida, California, and Texas, where they are prevalent. So, proper removal management is essential.

To get rid of carpenter bee infestations, consider these methods that are safe for honey bees, such as:

Safe Practice


Wood Staining or Painting

Staining or painting exposed wood, such as in decks or homes, deters carpenter bees from boring into it.

Bee Repellents

Natural repellents like essential oils can keep carpenter bees away from potential nesting sites.

Physical Barriers

Installing screens or hardware cloth over wood surfaces and nesting holes can prevent carpenter bees from accessing these areas.

Decoy Nests

Setting up decoy nests will attract carpenter bees to designated areas far from honey bee hives.

Chemical-free Traps

These can also effectively manage carpenter bees without impacting honey bees, bumble bees, wasps, or hornets.


They can offer specialized knowledge to identify and protect honey bees and beneficial insects while addressing the infestation.

Professional Pest Control and Removal

Pest control professionals are crucial in managing carpenter bees and honeybees on your property.

Here’s what you can expect from the proper management by professionals:

  1. Inspection: Identifying the type and extent of the bee problem.

  2. Treatment Plan: Creating a strategy for removing or relocating larvae or nests.

  3. Safe Removal: Using specialized techniques to handle the bees without harm.

  4. Maintenance: Preventing future infestations with ongoing monitoring.

  5. Repairs: Fixing any damage caused by carpenter bees.

Should You Get In Touch with Pest Control Professionals Now?

Finding sawdust-like material (frass) near wooden structures indicates that carpenter bees have made their home inside the wood. So, it might be a sign to call pest control.

Reaching out to a professional pest control company (like us at Native Pest Management) is an excellent move to maintain the safety and integrity of your home.