The Extension Office has received several calls from people reporting large bees resembling bumble bees near their homes. In some cases they have been behaving aggressively, flying at people. These are probably not bumble bees but carpenter bees, also sometimes called wood bees.
Carpenter bees are not dangerous in the same way as bumble bees. While they often behave aggressively, including "dive bombing" at people, they rarely sting. In fact, the bees that usually behave the most aggressively toward people are males that do not possess stingers. The female will sting but usually only if handled or stepped on.
Carpenter bees are solitary insects, so they do not establish large colonies such as bumble bees do. Also, they nest in wood, while bumble bees typically establish their nests in the ground.
While the threat of being stung is much less than for many other bees and wasps, carpenter bees are still a pest. They do not actually eat wood, but carpenter bees establish their nests by boring round holes about one-half inch in diameter where they lay their eggs. If not controlled, over time this boring and subsequent tunneling activity can weaken structures. One sign of carpenter bees is small piles of sawdust beneath the holes.
See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.