Big Bees: How to Protect Yourself And Prevent an Infestation

by Anne B. Robinson

Is there something buzzing in your garden, making you feel uneasy? If you’re sitting on pins and needles because of big bees, chances are you’re not alone. The truth is, many people fear these insects, especially if they’re allergic to honey bee stings.

But is there a reason to be afraid of larger bees too? Can they sting you or cause you any other kind of trouble? To find out what they are, what they look like, and what they might do to you, stick around. The more you know about these guys, the less afraid you’ll need to be.

What Are Big Bees?

Just as their name suggests, big black bees are larger and darker than honey bees, their more popular cousins. If you happen to see such a bee in your garden, chances are it will be either a bumblebee or a carpenter bee. So, what kind of behavior distinguishes these two from some smaller bee species? Or else, which similarities do they share?

Do They Live Alone?

Much like honey bees, bumblebees live in larger groups. Their colonies often include between 50 and 500 individual bumblebees. However, unlike honey bees, they usually prefer to build their nests underground. These social insects often have a clear division of labor inside the hive, too.

On the other hand, carpenter bees are well-known loners in the bee kingdom. Because building a hive alone isn’t easy, these guys find shelter in wood, which justifies their name. Male and female carpenter bees spend winters on their own and mate in spring. Then, a fertilized female carpenter bee digs a tunnel in wood where she would safely lay her eggs.

Do They Pollinate?


Did you know that bumblebees are even better pollinators than honey bees? Thanks to their rapid movements called “buzz pollination,” they need to pay each flower only one visit to pollinate it.

Unlike honey bees, they go in search of pollen rather than nectar. And, they don’t have such sophisticated communication systems as honey bees, which often costs them a tasty meal.

Carpenter bees are also good pollinators. You can see them performing buzz pollination on crops or in gardens, pollinating eggplants, tomatoes, or flowers. However, carpenter bees are often considered pests, unlike their relatives. Because they nest in wooden structures in your garden, you might even forget about their good pollinating deeds.

What Do Big Bees Look Like?


Image source: Pinterest

Bumblebees are bigger and fuzzier relatives to honeybees. Big black and yellow (sometimes even orange and red) stripes take turns coloring their bodies. Often more than 1 inch long, bumblebee torsos are covered in hair all around. Their hind legs often have a so-called “pollen basket” in which they forage this substance.

Much like bumblebees, carpenter bees are huge insects, up to 1 inch in size. What makes them different from their big cousins is their darker, often greenish-black or metallic/purple-blue color. Also, carpenter bees aren’t as hairy as bumblebees. Instead, you can recognize them by their hairless, shiny abdomens.

Do Big Bees Sting?

Unlike hornets, bumblebees aren’t so aggressive. So, if you stand out of their way, they won’t be looking to sting you on purpose. Especially when they’re busy around their nests, you won’t be an object of their interest. However, if you threaten their safety or disturb their peace, they’ll show you that they do, in fact, sting — even multiple times.

On the other hand, carpenter bees’ ability to sting depends on their gender. The truth is, male carpenter bees don’t even have a stinger. Still, they might seem intimidating, especially when defending their nests from other insects.

As opposed to them, females can sting you, but they’re much less aggressive. Just remember not to touch or provoke them in any way, and you won’t be in danger.

What Are the Signs of a Big Bee Infestation?

If you happen to notice a large number of these bees around your house, an infestation might be to blame. As far as a bumblebee infestation is concerned, it can happen quite easily, since these bees live in large colonies.

So, in case you see many of them flying around in different directions, a hive might be near. Also, look for active nests hidden in your shed or garage or even underneath your floorboards.

On the other hand, a carpenter bee infestation might not be so easy to spot. But, although these bees live more solitary lives, seeing them frequently in smaller groups might mean an infestation.

Also, look for sawdust piles on the floor next to your wooden pieces of furniture. Because carpenter bees make tunnels to find shelter, they’ll undoubtedly leave smooth holes in your wooden objects.

How to Prevent a Big Bee Infestation

To prevent a bee infestation, you can use some homemade techniques to repel them. For instance, bees don’t respond so well to the smell of mothballs. Turn this to your advantage by hanging mothballs near their nests and they won’t be coming anywhere near the hives. You can also sprinkle some cinnamon over their hive to make them relocate.

For carpenter bees, you can seal the wooden surfaces with a silicone-based caulk in advance. Also, if you’ve already noticed a bee infestation in your home or garden, remember to act on it immediately.

The best way to handle the situation is to call local beekeepers or opt for a bee pest control service. The professionals will advise you on how to get rid of the bees and keep them away for good.

Wrapping Up

Do you often notice many big buzzing insects flying around your home, making you anxious? If you happen to see a group of hairy, black-and-yellow bees or their individual, hairless cousins — meet bumblebees and carpenter bees. But don’t be afraid because neither of them will be looking to sting you on purpose. These big bees are in your garden only in search of pollen and shelter.

However, if you do suspect a big bee infestation, immediately call local beekeepers, exterminators, or a pest control service. These professionals will help you get rid of them and prevent all future inconveniences of this sort.

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