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Carpenter bees are not social insects and do not live in nests or colonies. During the winter, the adults live in abandoned nest tunnels. In the spring, the survivors emerge and feed on nectar. Then mating begins and extends into nest construction time. The mated female bores a circular hole (same diameter as her body) straight into the wood across the wood grain for a distance equal to her body length. Then the gallery takes a right angle turn, usually with the grain of the wood and parallel to the outer longitudinal surfaces. New galleries average 4-6" long but galleries developed by several bees may extend up to 10 feet. The female provisions each gallery cell starting at the closed end of the gallery with a mass of pollen and regurgitated nectar upon which she lays a single egg. This portion of the gallery is then sealed off with a chewed wood-pulp plug, Making a chamber or cell. This process is repeated until a series of 5 to 6 have been completed., about 1 cell per day. Developmental time (egg to adult) for the carpenter bee is about 36 days. Carpenter bees are like salmon, they come back year after year.
Females of the carpenter bee will nest in a wide range of woods, but prefer weathered and unpainted wood, however they have adapted to going through sealed, painted, and even pressure treated wood. They even manage to get under capping. Males tend to be territorial and often become aggressive when humans approach, sometimes hovering a short distance in front of the face or buzzing on one's head. Since males have no stinger, these actions are merely show. However, the female does have a potent sting.