Science, Tech, Math › Animals & Nature How to Tell the Difference Between a Bumblebee and a Carpenter Bee Share Flipboard Email Print A carpenter bee and carder bumblebee. Monique Berger / Getty Images Animals & Nature Insects Ants. Bees, & Wasps Basics Behavior & Communication Beetles Butterflies & Moths Spiders Ticks & Mites True Bugs, Aphids, Cicadas, and Hoppers Amphibians Birds Habitat Profiles Mammals Reptiles Wildlife Conservation Marine Life Forestry Dinosaurs Evolution View More by Debbie Hadley Debbie Hadley is a science educator with 25 years of experience who has written on science topics for over a decade. Updated November 04, 2019 Both bumblebees and carpenter bees frequent flowers for nectar, and both kinds of bees become active as soon as the weather starts to warm up in the spring. Because both bumblebees and carpenter bees are large and share similar markings, it's easy to mistake one bee for the other. All Bees Are Useful Both bumblebees and carpenter bees are beneficial insects, native pollinators that are vital to a healthy ecosystem. But occasionally, they nest in places that are a little too close for comfort, and you might be considering taking steps to control or eliminate them. Before you attempt any pest control measures, you need to identify the problem insect correctly and understand its life cycle and natural history. Although they look alike and inhabit the same areas, bumblebees and carpenter bees have very different habits. Bumblebee Characteristics Bumblebees (genus Bombus) are social insects, like honeybees. They live in colonies and almost always nest in the ground, often in abandoned rodent burrows. The bumblebee queen survives the winter alone and rears her first brood in early spring to establish a new colony. Although generally not aggressive, bumblebees will protect their nest if threatened, so a nest in a high foot traffic area of the yard might be a safety concern. Carpenter Bee Characteristics Large carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa) are solitary insects (although a few species are considered semi-social). Female carpenter bees excavate nests in wood, using their strong jaws to chew holes into decks, porches, and other wood structures. They're unlikely to sting unless provoked. Male carpenter bees are quite territorial and will attempt to defend their turf by flying directly at you and buzzing loudly. Males can't sting, so don't let this behavior frighten you. So, What's the Difference? So how do you tell the difference between a bumblebee and a carpenter bee? The easiest way to differentiate them is to look at the bee's abdomen. Bumblebees have hairy abdomens. A carpenter bee's abdomen is mostly bald, and will look smooth and shiny. Bumblebee Carpenter Bee Abdomen Hairy Mostly bald, shiny, black Nest In the ground Tunnel into wood Pollen Baskets Yes No Community Social Solitary, some species semi-social Genus Bombus Xylocopa Sources "Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies", Xerces Society Guide.Carpenter Bees, by Mike Potter, Extension Entomologist. University of Kentucky Entomology Department website. Accessed online May 22, 2015 Continue Reading All About the Habits and Traits of Busy, Burrowing Carpenter Bees Carpenter Bees and How to Get Rid of Them 10 Native Bees Every Gardener Should Know Bumblebees, Genus Bombus Do Not Be So Quick to Kill Ground Bees What Are the Differences and Similarities Between Bees and Wasps? How Long Does a Queen Bee Live? Do Bees Die After They Sting You? 12 Things You Can Do to Help Native Bees Fascinating Velvet Ant Facts Follow These 10 Tips to Avoid the Pain of a Bee Sting 15 Fascinating Facts About Honey Bees A Queen Bumblebee Is the Ultimate Independent Female What Makes an Insect Social? Do Carpenter Bees Sting? Can You Tell the Difference Between Hornets, Yellowjackets, and Wasps?