I have been seeing a variety of bees in the garden lately, including honey bees, carpenter bees and others. Carpenter bees are especially attracted to several fall-flowering plants next to our patio. Every day I see them buzzing around the Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha), Red Dragon Persicaria, and Caryopteris 'Jason'.
Carpenter bees look much like bumblebees in size and appearance, but the top of their abdomens are hairless and shiny black, while bumblebees are fully clothed with hairs, many of them yellow.
Carpenter bees are important pollinators and they don't sting you, but they are noted for drilling holes into wooden structures, which they use for nesting and overwintering. They also use trees or telephone poles.
Although we have a healthy carpenter bee population around our home, I have never seen any evidence of damage from them. (We do have problems with woodpeckers, who mistake the stucco on the front of our house for dead trees!) Carpenter bees prefer unpainted or old, weathered wood, so the best way to prevent damage to your home is to paint or varnish any wooden structures. Simply staining the wood does not usually work. There also are both chemical and organic products available to get rid of carpenter bees.
Before you decide to kill them, remember that, unlike honey bees, carpenter bees are native to America and they pollinate many types of blooms. A lot of bee species are on the decline due to disease and insecticide use. Without our pollinators, we won't have beautiful gardens or food!