FWC Florida Native Wildlife Spotlight
By FWC // June 11, 2014
ABOVE VIDEO: A pileated woodpecker drills for carpenter bees and larvae. This video was shot from inside a home and has no sound.
It was a mystery. Why would bees seem more attracted to the railings of a wooden deck than the flowers in an adjacent garden? Why was the big pileated woodpecker so interested in that same deck?
A quick inspection revealed the answer. The roundish black and yellow, and sometimes all black bees were carpenter bees, not bumblebees!
Instead of building things, these carpenters excavate.
Females chew a perfectly round little hole the size of their head on the undersides of unpainted timbers and burrow their way up into the post, following the wood grain to create a cavity to lay their egg, and then another cell for an egg, and another cell.
One bee can live three years and produce two generations a year in Florida. That is, unless they are interrupted by a smart homeowner or woodpecker, which is another carpenter of sorts.
It must take a carpenter to know a carpenter! Uninterrupted, the bee larvae develop in the cells and feed on the pollen and regurgitated nectar left behind by the female.
Somehow – maybe by the buzzing or drilling sound carpenter bees make when excavating or the sound of larvae and emerging bees chewing – woodpeckers know what is hidden inside the wood and peck away, leaving behind VERY noticeable, crude, oblong trenches maybe 4 inches long and an inch deep!
So watch for male carpenter bees hovering around any unfinished wood, like the underside of a deck railing, waiting to mate with a female.
Males may fly into you but don’t sting. Females might sting, but typically only when provoked.
To learn how to eliminate this destructive cycle, contact your local USDA Extension Office (link below) keeping in mind the pollination that bees provide is essential to food crops and flowers.
The best approach is painting all surfaces of timber around the property.