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In North America, carpenter bees are among the most common bee species. However, they’re also one of the peskiest and will nest in wood in and around the home so people are keen to get rid of them.
While there are many ways you can tackle a carpenter bee problem quickly and efficiently, sometimes, it’s better to let nature take its course and allow the nest to fade by itself. But this leads homeowners to wonder how long this process will take so I’m constantly asked how long do carpenter bees live?
The male carpenter bee has a lifespan of around one year. But females can live for two years and will return to their nest for another breeding season.
With this in mind, we can start to think about what action we need to take when tackling a carpenter bee nest.
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If you’ve recently noticed a carpenter bee nest around your home then I have some bad news. This species of bee very rarely relocate its nests unless it is forced to. Females live for two years, on average but some can live even longer. Each year, they will return to the same nest to lay their eggs albeit with different males since the boys only live for a year and will die after mating.
However, since carpenter bees live in pairs and not entire colonies, there is a good opportunity for homeowners to seal up a nest when the adults are away. This does require some observation on your part to notice when the adults are not inside and you can then fill the holes with something like caulk, preventing the bees from getting back in.
When carpenter bees cannot access their nest, this is one of the few times that they will fly off and find somewhere new to start their family.
In order to understand the best time to seal a carpenter bee nest, it’s important to learn more about the lifecycle of the carpenter bee.
During spring, the young carpenter bees will emerge from the nest. The exact time that this happens will vary depending on location and climate but in some of the warmest regions, this could happen at the end of February. However, in cooler climates, they may not emerge until the back end of May. If you’re looking to prevent carpenter bees from nesting in your home then I would suggest becoming vigilant as soon as you notice the first signs of spring.
If there isn’t already an infestation then you could use a bee trap or other preventative measures to stop carpenter bees in their tracks.
After the young carpenter bees come out of the nest, there will be a few weeks during which they’ll look for a mate. They’ll also spend their time foraging for food and once they find a mate, the pair will work together to gather supplies and start building a nest. This is a solitary bee species that won’t nest in large numbers which does bode well for homeowners.
When it comes to constructing the nest, it’s the female that takes on most of the work. She will look for a suitable spot, usually in a tree but sometimes in things like door frames and other wooden construction. In this wood, she’ll carve out her nest while the male spends his time guarding against threats.
As we move into summer, the female carpenter bee will still be working on her nest; she has to get it just right for her young. Inside the nest, she will construct tunnels and chambers and it’s a pretty impressive engineering feat for such a small creature. When the nest is complete, the bees will go about reproducing, after which, the male will soon die.
In some cases, the female will also die but a lot of female carpenter bees will go on to reproduce again the following summer. However, it is rare that they will make it through two winters.
If a male carpenter bee wasn’t lucky enough to find a mate then it will begin to up its game and search even harder. This is important for homeowners to be aware of as it means that some carpenter bee nests might not show up until later in the year. But the good news is that, in their desperation to find a mate, many male carpenter bees will enter into bee traps which makes them easier to control.
Some people think that it’s not as important to catch the males since they don’t bore into wood nor do they sting. But it’s still a good idea to try to get rid of them because when they die, they release a pheromone that is hugely attractive to other carpenter bees and will lead them directly to your home.
If you have a carpenter bee nest then one of your main concerns might be whether it’s a risk to you and your family. On the whole, carpenter bees are not dangerous nor are they aggressive. As long as they are left to get on with their business, they won’t cause any threat to you.
It is only the females that are capable of stinging but they generally won’t unless they feel threatened. While the males are a little more aggressive because it’s their job to protect the nest, they can’t sting so they won’t hurt you.
What we need to keep in mind is that carpenter bees are important pollinators, just like all other bee species. So, where possible it’s a good idea to leave them alone and let them nest in peace. Of course, sometimes, their tunnels in the wood could be damaging so you’ll want to get rid of them. I have some handy guides on how to get rid of carpenter bees using natural methods so as not to cause them any harm.
When people get carpenter bee nests in and around their homes, one of the first things they wonder is how long do carpenter bees live? Knowing this gives us a better understanding of how long the nest might be there, but we have to keep in mind that females may return for a second year.
The best way to approach the situation is by sealing the nest when the adults are away. This will force them to relocate which they may otherwise not do.