What to Know About Carpenter Bee Stings

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on July 16, 2023
4 min read

There are many varieties of bees, and each one is unique. You may recognize carpenter bees as the kind that hover around your porch, creating tunnels in your wood. Carpenter bees don’t sting unless provoked, but it’s still important to know how to treat a bee sting in case it happens.

Carpenter bees may look similar to bumblebees at first glance because they are the same size. They are 1/4 inch to 1 inch long and have six legs and antennae. You can tell them apart because bumblebees have fuzzy, yellow abdominal markings, and carpenter bees do not. Instead, carpenter bees have smooth, shiny abdomens.

Carpenter bees build nests in trees or buildings with exposed wood. If you see a cluster of bees around the eave of your porch, they are likely carpenter bees. If you inspect the wood closely, you’ll see small indentations where they chew the wood to build a burrow.

The male carpenter bee does not have a stinger. Males are the bees you see hovering around your porch because they are tasked with protecting the next from other flying insects.

Female bees have stingers, but they are not aggressive. They only sting if provoked by touching or handling. If you try to shoo carpenter bees away, they may fly closer to you, but there is no need to feel threatened.

Bee sting treatment. If a carpenter bee does sting you, treat the area right away. First, check the site of the sting to see if the stinger is still stuck in your skin. If it is, use a fingernail to scrape it off. Leaving the stinger in your skin allows it to release more venom and cause more discomfort.

After that, don’t handle the sting site again. You may wipe the site with soap and water, but don’t cover it up. Allowing the sting to have fresh air helps it to heal more quickly. If you notice swelling, you can apply an ice pack to relieve the inflammation. You can also take pain medication as needed.

Allergic reaction. In rare cases, if you are allergic to bee stings, you may have a reaction – to a carpenter bee sting or any other type of bee sting. Keep an eye on the area to watch for signs of an allergic reaction. If you have an anaphylactic attack, someone should call emergency medical services right away.

In that rare instance of a severe bee sting reaction, you'll need to seek emergency care. First responders would perform CPR to get oxygen into your airways. They may use:

  • Epinephrine to reduce your body's allergic response
  • Oxygen to help you breathe with less effort
  • Intravenous (IV) antihistamines to reduce inflammation in your airway so you can breathe independently.
  • Beta agonists, such as an albuterol inhaler, to relieve symptoms of difficulty breathing 

Pollinators. Carpenter bees are especially beneficial for pollinating vegetable gardens. You may also see them buzzing around flowers early in the morning. Carpenter bees are out early in the day, bouncing from flower to flower and vegetable to vegetable providing pollination.‌

If you have a garden, carpenter bees are especially good for pollinating eggplant and tomatoes, among other vegetables.

Relatively harmless. Some insects can be aggressive, biting or stinging without being provoked. When it comes to carpenter bees, if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.

Cause structural damage. Carpenter bees are very important to our ecosystem because of their pollination abilities. But they are also very destructive. If your home has a lot of wood, carpenter bees can do significant damage to the framework.

Preventing damage is challenging because insecticide sprays are short-lived. They need to be reapplied every few weeks in order to keep working. Plus, since the bees aren’t eating the wood, they don’t ingest the pesticide.

Remember that pesticides are poison. Read the instructions carefully and exercise caution when applying pesticides to your home to prevent carpenter bees. If your treatment plan doesn’t work, call a pest control company that can help with a more aggressive approach. 

If you want to avoid chemicals around your home, staining your wood may also work as a deterrent.

Minor tunneling may not seem like a big deal, but carpenter bees mate twice a year, burrowing tunnels each time. Over time the damage to your home can add up quickly. Patch your damaged wood using putty. This will cover the hole and prevent additional damage from weathering and other insects.