PADNWS-04-30-22 FAT-BOTTOM BEES - PHOTO_

Carpenter bees, identifiable by having a glossy, hairless abdomen/rump, almost never sting, and the intimidating males of the species simply can’t.

With apologies to the late Freddie Mercury, fat-bottom bees may not make the world go ‘round, but they at least contribute to that.

Among these prominent insects, it is good to see the bumble bees back with the warmth of spring. Regarding their lookalikes, the carpenter bees, maybe not so much.

Bumble bees and carpenter bees are two similar classes of rotund fliers that enrich or annoy our lives in their own buzzing ways.

They hail from different genus groupings and have varying lifestyles, but many people can’t tell one from other.

To human beholders, the notable characteristics are that these are big bees, fat around the butt end, and they are typically a combination of black and yellow. Bumble bees live in a colony, a nest that a single queen initiates in hole in the ground, in a hollow tree or log, under a rock or in some other odd cavity. Most are ground nests built in what began as rodent dens.

A fertilized queen starts the nest in spring, lays eggs and hatches out female workers to help with chores, males to spur reproduction and eventually new queens for future generations. Before late fall, a colony can grow to 50-500 bees.

Bumble bees feed on pollen and plant nectar, and their food gathering is an important pollination service to a great deal of vegetation including man’s farm crops. We need these bees.

Female bumble bees can sting in defense, but these fat buzzers are minimally aggressive. They seldom sting expect when a nest is disturbed. A bumble bee making its rounds gathering pollen poses no threat to zap you.

A whole different animal is the carpenter bee. They are a tiny bit bigger than bumble bees.

But here’s how you tell them apart: Bumble bees are fuzzy with fine hairs all over. Carpenter bees, meanwhile, have fuzzy thoraxes but their abdomens are a shiny, hairless black. The bees with the glossy black butts are of the carpenter variety.

The reason we call these carpenter bees is that they are, indeed, wood workers. Each female carpenter bee builds her own “nest,” so to speak, by boring a tunnel in soft wood.

A lady carpenter bee’s tunnel in natural habitat is chewed into a soft wood tree like pine. In practice, it seems like they prefer man-made habitats. They at least readily adapt to unpainted lumber.

A momma carpenter bee is the only adult that occupies the nest tunnel during the reproductive season. She can sting in defense of the nest, but she rarely will. A female carpenter bee is not aggressive and seldom stings humans.

Male carpenter bees, meanwhile, are quite menacing. They hover around outside of nesting tunnel, serving as guards of a sort. A human who wanders there may experience confrontational male bees buzzing and attempting to intimidate. The male guards will get in one’s face, going eye-to-eye in a bid to bully you away.

It’s all silly bluster, however, because a male carpenter bee has only attitude. Those guy bees lack stingers or any type of defensive or offensive tools. They cannot harm you in any way.

Yet, repeat tunneling in a frame structure over time can weaken a building. When you find little piles of fine sawdust on your vehicle in the garage, look directly overhead. That ½-inch round hole up there is a sign that a lady carpenter bee is excavating her nursery in your 2x4s.

Don’t stick your finger in there, but you might try applying a pesticide in there, then later plugging the hole with a dowel or putty to eliminate future boring in that spot. An overall deflection of carpenter bee tunneling is painting the raw wood.

Despite their annoying tunnel cutting in our structures, carpenter bees are part of our ecology, so they must deserve their place. Bumble bees, meanwhile, are highly desirable for their pollination services.

Neither species warrants the bee fears that we humans harbor. We should get along with both.

Steve Vantreese, a freelance outdoors writer, can be contacted at outdoors@paducahsun.com.

With apologies to the late Freddie Mercury, fat-bottom bees may not make the world go ‘round, but they at least contribute to that.

Among these prominent insects, it is good to see the bumble bees back with the warmth of spring. Regarding their lookalikes, the carpenter bees, maybe not so much.

Bumble bees and carpenter bees are two similar classes of rotund fliers that enrich or annoy our lives in their own buzzing ways. They hail from different genus groupings and have varying lifestyles, but many people can’t tell one from other.

To human beholders, the notable characteristics are that these are big bees, fat around the butt end, and they are typically a combination of black and yellow. With a general fear of being stung by any bee, most people shy away from these rotund bugs, especially since nature often uses the black/yellow coloration to signal a stinging danger.

Bumble bees are an insect of the Bombus genus represented by 49 species in America. Here, seems we are mostly stocked with Bombus impatiens, the common Eastern bumble bee.

Workers and male drones of this species are a bit less than ¾-inch long and more tubby than smaller honeybees. Our local bumblers are pale yellow on the thorax mid-body segment and the front part of the abdomen. The head and the rest of the abdomen are black.

Bumble bees live in a colony, a nest that a single queen initiates in hole in the ground, in a hollow tree or log, under a rock or in some other odd cavity. Most are ground nests built in what began as rodent dens.

A fertilized queen starts the nest in spring, lays eggs and hatches out female workers to help with chores, males to spur reproduction and eventually new queens for future generations. Before late fall (when all non-queen bees die), a colony can grow to 50-500 bees.

Bumble bees feed on pollen and plant nectar, and their food gathering is an important pollination service to a great deal of vegetation including man’s farm crops. We need these bees.

Female bumble bees can sting in defense, but these fat buzzers are minimally aggressive. They seldom sting expect when a nest is disturbed. A bumble bee making its rounds gathering pollen poses no threat to zap you.

A whole different animal is the carpenter bee. There are numerous species of these in the Xylocopa genus, the ones we typically see being about 1 inch long. They are a tiny bit bigger than bumble bees but with that similar fat-bottom profile.

Common carpenter bees are that familiar yellow on the thorax and black on the rump-like abdomen.

But here’s how you tell them apart: Bumble bees are fuzzy with fine hairs all over. Carpenter bees, meanwhile, have fuzzy thoraxes but their abdomens are a shiny, hairless black. The bees with the glossy black butts are of the carpenter variety.

The reason we call these carpenter bees is that they are, indeed, wood workers. Each female carpenter bee builds her own “nest,” so to speak, by boring a tunnel in soft wood. These tunnels are round, ½-inch borings that go in a short distance, then turn at a right angle to run a few or several inches parallel to the surface.

A lady carpenter bee’s tunnel in natural habitat is chewed into a soft wood tree like pine. In practice, it seems like they prefer man-made habitats. They at least readily adapt to unpainted lumber as they often find in garages and outbuildings.

The female carpenter bee chews out her round tunnel nest and lays 3-5 eggs, one per chamber, forming the egg cell walls with chewed, semi-digested wood pulp.

A momma carpenter bee is the only adult that occupies the nest tunnel during the reproductive season. She can sting in defense of the nest, but she rarely will. A female carpenter bee is not aggressive and seldom stings humans unless molested and taken in hand.

Male carpenter bees, meanwhile, are quite menacing. They hover around outside of nesting tunnel, serving as guards of a sort. A human who wanders there may experience confrontational male bees buzzing and attempting to intimidate. The male guards will get in one’s face, going eye-to-eye in a bid to bully you away.

It’s all silly bluster, however, because a male carpenter bee has only attitude. Those guy bees lack stingers or any type of defensive or offensive tools. They cannot harm you in any way.

Yet, repeat tunneling in a frame structure over time can weaken a building. When you find little piles of fine sawdust on your vehicle in the garage, look directly overhead. That ½-inch round hole up there is a sign that a lady carpenter bee is excavating her nursery in your 2x4s.

Don’t stick your finger in there, but you might try applying a pesticide in there, then later plugging the hole with a dowel or putty to eliminate future boring in that spot.

An overall deflection of carpenter bee tunneling is painting the raw wood. They hate that.

Despite their annoying tunnel cutting in our structures, carpenter bees are part of our ecology, so they must deserve their place. Bumble bees, meanwhile, are highly desirable for their pollination services.

Neither species warrants the bee fears that we humans harbor. We should get along with both.

Steve Vantreese, a freelance outdoors writer, can be contacted at outdoors@paducahsun.com.

With apologies to the late Freddie Mercury, fat-bottom bees may not make the world go ‘round, but they at least contribute to that.

Among these prominent insects, it is good to see the bumble bees back with the warmth of spring. Regarding their lookalikes, the carpenter bees, maybe not so much.

Bumble bees and carpenter bees are two similar classes of rotund fliers that enrich or annoy our lives in their own buzzing ways. They hail from different genus groupings and have varying lifestyles, but many people can’t tell one from other.

To human beholders, the notable characteristics are that these are big bees, fat around the butt end, and they are typically a combination of black and yellow. With a general fear of being stung by any bee, most people shy away from these rotund bugs, especially since nature often uses the black/yellow coloration to signal a stinging danger.

Bumble bees are an insect of the Bombus genus represented by 49 species in America. Here, seems we are mostly stocked with Bombus impatiens, the common Eastern bumble bee.

Workers and male drones of this species are a bit less than ¾-inch long and more tubby than smaller honeybees. Our local bumblers are pale yellow on the thorax mid-body segment and the front part of the abdomen. The head and the rest of the abdomen are black.

Bumble bees live in a colony, a nest that a single queen initiates in hole in the ground, in a hollow tree or log, under a rock or in some other odd cavity. Most are ground nests built in what began as rodent dens.

A fertilized queen starts the nest in spring, lays eggs and hatches out female workers to help with chores, males to spur reproduction and eventually new queens for future generations. Before late fall (when all non-queen bees die), a colony can grow to 50-500 bees.

Bumble bees feed on pollen and plant nectar, and their food gathering is an important pollination service to a great deal of vegetation including man’s farm crops. We need these bees.

Female bumble bees can sting in defense, but these fat buzzers are minimally aggressive. They seldom sting expect when a nest is disturbed. A bumble bee making its rounds gathering pollen poses no threat to zap you.

A whole different animal is the carpenter bee. There are numerous species of these in the Xylocopa genus, the ones we typically see being about 1 inch long. They are a tiny bit bigger than bumble bees but with that similar fat-bottom profile.

Common carpenter bees are that familiar yellow on the thorax and black on the rump-like abdomen.

But here’s how you tell them apart: Bumble bees are fuzzy with fine hairs all over. Carpenter bees, meanwhile, have fuzzy thoraxes but their abdomens are a shiny, hairless black. The bees with the glossy black butts are of the carpenter variety.

The reason we call these carpenter bees is that they are, indeed, wood workers. Each female carpenter bee builds her own “nest,” so to speak, by boring a tunnel in soft wood. These tunnels are round, ½-inch borings that go in a short distance, then turn at a right angle to run a few or several inches parallel to the surface.

A lady carpenter bee’s tunnel in natural habitat is chewed into a soft wood tree like pine. In practice, it seems like they prefer man-made habitats. They at least readily adapt to unpainted lumber as they often find in garages and outbuildings.

The female carpenter bee chews out her round tunnel nest and lays 3-5 eggs, one per chamber, forming the egg cell walls with chewed, semi-digested wood pulp.

A momma carpenter bee is the only adult that occupies the nest tunnel during the reproductive season. She can sting in defense of the nest, but she rarely will. A female carpenter bee is not aggressive and seldom stings humans unless molested and taken in hand.

Male carpenter bees, meanwhile, are quite menacing. They hover around outside of nesting tunnel, serving as guards of a sort. A human who wanders there may experience confrontational male bees buzzing and attempting to intimidate. The male guards will get in one’s face, going eye-to-eye in a bid to bully you away.

It’s all silly bluster, however, because a male carpenter bee has only attitude. Those guy bees lack stingers or any type of defensive or offensive tools. They cannot harm you in any way.

Yet, repeat tunneling in a frame structure over time can weaken a building. When you find little piles of fine sawdust on your vehicle in the garage, look directly overhead. That ½-inch round hole up there is a sign that a lady carpenter bee is excavating her nursery in your 2x4s.

Don’t stick your finger in there, but you might try applying a pesticide in there, then later plugging the hole with a dowel or putty to eliminate future boring in that spot.

An overall deflection of carpenter bee tunneling is painting the raw wood. They hate that.

Despite their annoying tunnel cutting in our structures, carpenter bees are part of our ecology, so they must deserve their place. Bumble bees, meanwhile, are highly desirable for their pollination services.

Neither species warrants the bee fears that we humans harbor. We should get along with both.

Steve Vantreese, a freelance outdoors writer, can be contacted at outdoors@paducahsun.com.

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