Biology & Behavior
Unlike the social wasps and hornets, honeybees form a semi-permanent colony. Nests are constructed of wax and most colonies are maintained by beekeepers. Honeybees feed on nectar and pollen, which they feed their young and use to produce products such as honey and beeswax. Honeybees may also collect water to cool the hive and plant sap to help seal cracks. Periodically, overcrowded colonies form swarms that leave the hive. The swarms rest temporarily on a tree or shrub while scout bees search for a nesting cavity. Although the swarms are very striking, the bees are very docile at this time.
Different bee varieties have different nesting behaviors. Honeybees and bumblebees are social creatures that create large communal hives with nesting galleries and large honeycombs. Don’t panic – most honeybee swarms are not dangerous if you leave them well alone and keep your distance. Bumblebees often nest in the ground, but can be found above ground around patio areas or decks. They will sometimes build their nests in attics or under roof beams. If disturbed, bumblebees will buzz in a loud volume, and they will aggressively defend their nests. Honeybee hives can be active for years, while bumble bee colonies die off each year.
Wood boring bees nest as individuals, with each bee boring its own egg and nectar gallery. Carpenter bees bore through soft woods to lay eggs and protect their larvae as they develop. Female carpenter bees will chew a tunnel into a piece of wood to build a nest gallery. The tunnel openings usually look about one or two inches deep, but they can be up to 10 feet long. These tunnels usually have several rooms where the bees hold their eggs and food.
The damage they cause comes from tunneling into wood to create nesting chambers. The bees bore entry holes about 1 inch deep into their targeted structure. Telltale signs of carpenter bee activity include sawdust piles on the ground and excrement stains on the wood below their holes.