What Do Carpenter Bees Eat? – A Guide to Their Diet

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: February 6, 2022
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There is a common misconception when it comes to carpenter bees. Most people assume they eat wood based on their wood-boring tendencies. They possess impressive mandibles which they use for boring into woods for nesting. 

Carpenter bees are solitary bees, unlike social bees like honeybees and bumblebees. But do carpenter bees eat the same diet as other bee species? Here you’ll find answers to what carpenter bees eat and also learn everything you need to know about their eating habits. 

What Do Carpenter Bees Eat?

What DO Carpenter Bees Eat
Carpenter bees primarily eat pollen and nectar.

Carpenter bees eat a diet comprised primarily of plant pollen and nectar, and they are predominantly herbivores. Nectar is a carbohydrate-rich sweet liquid produced by flowering plants to attract insects like bees. They are a source of nutrition and energy for carpenter bees. Plant pollen is a protein-rich powder-like substance produced by plants that carpenter bees eat. Pollen can come from any number of flowering plants. For example, studies of carpenter bees in eastern North America have found the bees’ primary pollen sources are clover and rose. Sunflowers are another popular plant that carpenter bees will frequent in their search for pollen and nectar.

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A Complete List  of Foods That Carpenter Bees Eat

The list of foods carpenter bees eat is as follows:

  • Pollen
  • Nectar

Carpenter bees do not eat insects like carpenter ants, they have very different diets despite their names being similar. They also don’t eat fruits, but they help to pollinate flowering plants to produce fruits. And as said earlier, carpenter bees do not feed on wood. They burrow into hardwoods like cedar, redwood, and cypress to create a nest and store food for their larvae.

What Do The Different Types of Carpenter Bees Eat?

There are more than 500 species of carpenter bees known in the world. The most common ones include the Southern carpenter bee, the Eastern carpenter bee, the valley carpenter bee, the California carpenter bee, and the violet Carpenter Bee. All the different species of carpenter bees eat pollen and nectar. 

The Eastern carpenter bee, however, has a unique way of collecting pollen. It creates a buzz by vibrating its leg muscles, making the pollen easier to collect and scatter. The Southern carpenter bee eats nectar and pollen from flowers like the hibiscus and azalea. 

The valley carpenter bee eats nectar and pollen even in extreme conditions. They are unique because they can withstand extremely low and high temperatures by maintaining their internal temperature. 

What Do Carpenter Bees Larvae Eat?

What Do Carpenter Bees Eat - Carpenter Bee Larvae

Carpenter bee larvae eat regurgitated nectar of pollen called bee bread

©Wilfreda Wiseman/Shutterstock.com

Carpenter bees larvae eat regurgitated nectar and pollen called bee bread.  Carpenter bees have four metamorphosis stages, egg-larvae- pupa-adult. The carpenter bee larvae mature from an egg into larvae in about two to three days. During this period, the female carpenter bee creates a brood cell where she lays her eggs and deposits a ball of regurgitated nectar and pollen.

How Do Carpenter Bees Eat?

The most common carpenter bee is the eastern carpenter bee. It is the largest species of carpenter bees, and because of its size, it can be pretty intimidating upon sight. The eastern carpenter bees possess short mouthparts (mandibles) that they use to eat nectar from the underside of flowers. 

Because of their unnecessarily large size, they cannot collect pollen from flowers like Salvia, which possess long and narrow tubes. They instead steal the nectar by cutting a side of the corolla without even pollinating the flower. This is why they are called nectar robbers.

How Does the Diet of Carpenter Bees Impact Other Species?

What Do Carpenter Bees Eat - Carpenter Bee Boring Through Wood

Carpenter bees do not eat wood, they only bore through wood.

©Yuttana Joe/Shutterstock.com

The species most impacted by carpenter bees eating habits are the homo-sapiens (humans). Carpenter bees are essential pollinators who help the process of insect pollination and cross-pollination of plants. They are responsible for more than half of the vegetables you eat today. 

Their diet can therefore have a very positive impact, as they provide us with some of our favorite vegetables(tomato) and fruits (passion fruits). They are cultivated in agricultural institutes to increase farm produce of some vegetables and fruits.

Who Competes With Carpenter Bees For Food?

There are several other species aside from bees like flies, wasps, beetles, birds, and bats that also eat nectar and pollen as food.

Bee flies compete with carpenter bees for pollen. In the instance where some species of carpenter bees are unable to collect pollen from flowers with long tubes due to their large size, bee flies don’t have that problem because they possess long proboscis.

Some species of wasps also collect pollen to feed their larvae. Butterflies are attracted to the nectar in brightly colored flowers, just like carpenter bees. Some insects whose main diet consists of nectar also compete with carpenter bees for food. Hummingbirds are birds that have nectar as part of their diet.

Are Carpenter Bees Dangerous To Humans?

If you are allergic to bee stings, you might want to stay away from carpenter bees like you would other species of bees. Although their males tend to be aggressive, it is their females that sting. Aside from bee stings, carpenter bees don’t pose any threat to human life.

Carpenter bees can, however, be nuisances because they bore into wood to build their nests, and they create their homes on unfinished wood structures. They can cause permanent damage to wooden house structures if left unchecked for a long time.

What Are The Predators of Carpenter Bees?

Carpenter bees are preyed on by birds like strikes, bee-eaters, woodpeckers, insects like bee flies and beetles, some badgers, and praying mantis. The most natural bee predator of carpenter bees are woodpeckers and bee flies. 

Woodpeckers are drawn to the nest of carpenter bees because of the noise made by the bee larvae. They feed primarily on the larvae left behind in the burrowed tunnels by female carpenter bees. 

Bee flies prey on carpenter bees by laying eggs at the entrance of the best tunnels of carpenter bees, and the maggots of the bee fly feed off the fluid taken from the larvae of the carpenter bee.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Zety Akhzar/Shutterstock.com

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