Carpenter bees are the tiny handymen of the insect world. When the honeybees have a party and leave honey stuck all over everything, who do they call? If you look really closely you can see the bee sized hammer in the left front…. Just kidding. They are actually named because they nest in living or dead wood, but all their carpentry is done without tools.
They are somewhat social, a window into the development of the complex societies of honeybees. Many are solitary, but at times related females will nest together. Males don’t build nests but are enthusiastic about guarding them. I have at times apparently been mistaken for an enormous bee, which I find simultaneously a compliment but also somehow vaguely insulting. One hovered very close to me for a really long time, apparently having a really hard time figuring out how an insect could grow so big! Fortunately males can’t sting, and though females can they are too preoccupied drilling their perfectly round tiny holes in my house to bother.
Though annoying, their excavation rarely causes damage. They don’t actually eat wood, and their tunnels are only about an inch deep, so they cause only superficial damage. And they are important pollinators for a number of flowers, so I tolerate their circular decorations on my eaves and the male’s aggressive defense of my porch. I took this photo very close knowing it was a male, distinguished by his white face. He seemed to be observing me as I observed him, and I could only guess how I looked to his compound eyes.