Bumblebees and carpenter bees have more in common than you might think. It’s not uncommon for people to confuse the two, especially since they look so similar. However, they have some differences.
It’s no secret that bumblebees and carpenters share many characteristics. Without some knowledge or experience of what to look for, it can be very difficult to tell them apart even at close range.
The best way to tell a bumblebee from a carpenter bee is to look at their body hair. Bumblebee has what is called a heap. This is basically the fluffy soft hair covering her.
The hair completely covers them, making them look soft and voluminous. However, stacks also have their uses. Pollen can stick to hair while foraging, helping bumblebees bring more resources back to the nest.
If you look at the difference in color, you’ll also see that the bumblebee’s body is more colorful. The bumblebee sports the signature bee colors with black and yellow stripes. This particular pattern, known as reverse coloration, is used by bees to defend against predators because it looks unpalatable.
Different bumblebee species also have different colored tails. The appearance of the tail is usually divided into white tail, uniform and red. Whitetails come in many different shades of white, from cream to pale yellow, and are rounded.
Red-tailed bumblebees usually carry few red species, but their tails are pointed. The uniform tail is the same color as the rest of the bee, usually ginger. These “uniform” bees also sport pointed tails.
The last hornet feature I want to mention is their proboscis. This is similar to a tongue and is located on the head of a bee. The bumblebee uses its nose to collect pollen and nectar.
Appearance of a carpenter bee
If you put the two species side by side, you will no doubt notice the difference in size. Carpenter bees are usually larger than most bumblebees, ranging from half an inch to an inch in length. Its size is also probably the most intimidating thing about this bee.
Carpenter bees also wear fur. Unlike bumblebees, carpenter bees have fur that only covers the chest. Their belly is relatively smooth and usually black or blue.
The fur on their chests is not as thick as that of bumblebees. It is fairly uniform in color, with only a few shades ranging from orange, yellow to brown. You may also notice a black spot in the center of the rib.
Also, the legs of these bees are very fluffy, while the legs of bumblebees are smooth. The fuzzy part of the carpenter’s bee’s legs resembles a cuckoo hornet, which many claim is not a true hornet.
Carpenter bees also have fairly large abdomens compared to bumblebees. It’s thick and looks heavy, and you may notice no stinger. While female carpenter bees can sting, they don’t usually venture out of the nest.
Males, on the other hand, do not have stingers, which are the most common. Instead of stinging, they use a loud buzz and large size to intimidate would-be intruders.
Behavior – Bumblebees and Carpenter Bees
This is where it gets interesting. Bumblebees and carpenter bees lead completely different lives. One prefers to live alone, away from other bees, while the other relies on workers; let’s find out more.
You may already know this, but bumblebees are gregarious, which means they live together in colonies ruled by a queen. Although bumblebees are social insects, their colonies are not as large as honeybee colonies.
A single bumblebee queen rarely has more than a few hundred workers in its nest. Sometimes she can only carry 50 worker bees.
A typical bumblebee hive is divided by caste; there are queens, workers and drones. The queen, the founder, emerges from the cocoon, mates, and then goes into hibernation.
As soon as she wakes up, she finds a nesting place and ascended the throne. She sits in the middle of the nest all day, feeding on the honey produced by the workers.
Workers or daughters have different duties, including caring for the nest, queen and brooding or foraging outside. The workers are very docile and they are unlikely to sting if you encounter them outdoors.
Carpenter Bee Behavior
Carpenter bees are called solitary bees, which means they don’t live in colonies ruled by a queen. The female finds a mate and builds a nest in the woods.
Since carpenter bees don’t live in colonies, females take care of their own offspring. Their entire life cycle is usually spent digging tunnels to lay eggs and collect pollen to feed their young.
It has a pair of mandibles at the front of its head. These vibrate as she carves the tunnels, allowing her to build an impressive lair in less time.
Males spend their days near the nest opening. They will deter any intruder, be it human, animal or insect. Fortunately, they don’t sting, but their size is intimidating.
Once the season is over, both males and females die, leaving their offspring ready to hatch. They feed on the remaining nectar and pollen, and then venture out to continue the cycle in the spring.
Habitat – Hornet vs Carpenter Bee
Likewise, these species show different preferences when choosing habitats. None of them live in hives, so where can we find them? Let’s have a look.
Bumblebees prefer to live underground. The queen usually seeks out abandoned dens or moss where all the necessary supplies are located. Bumblebees are not good at building their own nests from scratch, so having materials nearby is important.
There are also some species of bumblebees that live on the ground. These species usually nest in old birdhouses or tree cavities.
Habitat of carpenter bees
Carpenter bees are also the opposite of bumblebees in terms of their preferred habitat. They prefer to live in wood, in which the female will carve out tunnels to store her eggs. As I said above, the female has a mandible, so she is fully capable of building her own nest from scratch.
Unfortunately, carpenter bees don’t hesitate to nest in or near our homes. This often results in costly damage to wood products.
Although bumblebees and carpenter bees are often confused with each other, as you can see by now, they have many differences. Carpenter wasps are larger and live solitary lives in the woods, while bumblebees usually live in underground colonies ruled by queens.