Carpenter bee research
Top: A female carpenter bee entering her nest. Bottom: An x-ray of a heavily colonized board, revealing the tunnels and bees within.
Almost everyone in the eastern US will recognize this bee, known for drilling its nests into porches and eaves. Eastern carpenter bees are so common in cities that they have rarely been studied in “nature.” What is it about cities that favors this species, how has urban living changed its biology and ecology, and how can it be managed without pesticides?
Current projects include the Bee Bench project and our pilot observation nests.
Michelle Cavalieri, NCSU
Rob Dunn, NCSU
Host a bee bench!
UPDATE: All benches have been distributed for spring 2019! We’re still happy to hear from you if you’d like to be notified of future opportunities to be involved in related research!
We are conducting an experiment to identify whether carpenter bees prefer or avoid certain kinds of wood, as well as the rate at which they cause structural damage. The goal is to provide better advice to homeowners about bee-resistant construction materials and the costs and benefits of their use. We need your help!
Wanted: Decks and porches in Raleigh, NC, with lots of carpenter bees living in them
Why: NCSU researchers are conducting an experiment to identify whether carpenter bees prefer or avoid certain kinds of wood, as well as the rate at which they cause structural damage. The goal is to provide better advice to homeowners about bee-resistant construction materials and the costs and benefits of their use.
Why you: We need your help to gain access to existing carpenter bee populations, and to keep an eye out for any interesting bee activity.
What: We have hand-crafted 20 small benches, each with 10 kinds of wood in the seat. We are asking volunteers to place benches on “infested” decks and porches and help us track bee colonization in the different kinds of wood over time. (Benches measure about 4’ long x 20” wide x 18” tall.)
Where: Raleigh, NC
When: Starting in spring 2019. We anticipate that benches will remain in place about five years, to allow bees plenty of time to move in. We’ll discuss potential changes if bee colonization is unexpectedly fast or slow.
What we’ll do: If you volunteer your deck/porch as a potential study site, we’ll ask some questions about current infestation and your potential commitment to make sure we’ll be able to complete the study there. If everything looks good, we’ll deliver a bench in spring 2019, and visit approximately twice per year to document bee activity in the bench. We’ll bring any colonized bench boards back to the lab to measure the nests inside using x-rays, then return them to their home bench.
What you’ll do: Help us identify a location on your deck/porch where the bench can stay for a few years! Then, sit back, watch your bees, and report observations of nesting activity in and around the bench.
Want to host a bench? Please send an e-mail to Dr. Elsa Youngsteadt at CarpenterBees@ncsu.edu to indicate your interest, and we’ll follow up! Please remember, we can only consider study sites in Raleigh, NC!
Each hand-crafted bench includes ten kinds of wood in the seat, so we can ask carpenter bees what nesting materials they prefer and avoid. If you would like to host a bench on your deck or porch, in Raleigh, NC, check out the details at left and send an e-mail to CarpenterBees@ncsu.edu to sign up!
Perhaps you’ve seen one of our observation nests on campus. It’s an artificial nest that is open on one side, covered with plexiglas, so we can spy on the bees within to more easily record their social organization, nesting success, parasitism, and other variables. Credit for the clever design goes to the Brock Bee Lab in Canada; we’re testing it out at NCSU to see if this is a method we can use to measure the effects of urban living on carpenter bee biology.