Although carpenter bees are often thought of as pests, these bees native to North America can be important pollinators of a wide variety of plants.
Carpenter bees are indigenous to North America and are an important link to the continued growth of native plants. Their affinity for the nectar and pollen of native plants assists those plants in continuing to reproduce, despite the ongoing threat of takeover by alien and invasive varieties.
In North America there are two types of carpenter bees; small carpenter bees of the Ceratina species and large carpenter bees of the Xylocopa species. Both can generally be found throughout the United States and Canada, with only slight changes in behavior or appearance.
Small carpenter bees are generally smaller than 8 mm. They are small and black and make their nests in twigs and stems. Large carpenter bees start around 20 mm in size and nest in trees and other wooden structures.
All bees are pollinators. While carpenter bees are not considered a significant pollinator of crops, like honeybees, carpenters do forage for nectar and pollen and pollinate in the process. As generalists, they are excellent bees to have around the home garden, as they visit many different types of flowers and vegetables.
If a carpenter bee is too large to fit inside a flower, it will chew a hole at the base of the flower so that it can stick its tongue through to get at the nectar source. The bees are notorious among blueberry farmers for using this trick, which weakens and can destroy rather than pollinate the plant.
Carpenter bees often pollinate by a process called \"buzz pollination.\" When they land on a flower, the beating of their wings creates a vibration that literally shakes the pollen from the flower's stamen and onto the pistil.