Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University







Insect Carpenters

Carpenter bees and carpenter ants. These insects don't carry hammers or saws, or belong to a local carpenter's union. However, their wood work creates few friends in the human world.

Bee and ant carpenters build their homes by hollowing out wood. This is accomplished by using their strong mandibles. They literally chew out a new dwelling. In the woods this home-building activity is largely unnoticed by humans. However, when either of these insects decides to make their home in our homes, we are less than hospitable.

These insect carpenters can weaken the structure of a house by building their domiciles. So we call them ests and try to get rid of them.

Carpenter bees resemble bumble bees. However, the carpenter bee is nearly black, while the bumble bee has yellow markings. Also, bumble bees are fuzzy, while carpenter bees are slick. They excavate a nesting burrow in exposed timbers like rafters and porch railings. The enty hole to the burrow is normally upward into the wood for about an inch. The burrow then turns and runs with the grain of the wood. The female bee makes cells which are filled with pollen and nectar and separated with wood pulp. One larva lives in each cell.

Much of the concern about carpenter bees is due to the habit of the males flying around the nest area. Males cannot sting, and females, unlike bumbles bees will not defend their nest. They only will sting if misheld.

Carpenter ants are large and black. They can either be winged or wingless. The presence of carpenter ants in a home does not mean they are nesting there. These ants will look for food away from their nest and will often search a human dwelling for something to eat.

Carpenter ants, like human carpenters, leave sawdust as evidence of their work. A pile of sawdust on the carpet may indicate that these insect carpenters ahve constructed their new home in yours. If this is the case, it is probably wise to do something about the ants. Their nests can weaken the structure of our homes.

Most homeowners find it necessary from time to time to have carpentry work done. But not the kind provided by carpenter bees or carpenter ants.


Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Elaine Lambert