Why Do Carpenter Bees Hover? Reasons for Carpenter Bee Encounters

Carpenter bees are known to follow humans in various situations. And if you’ve experienced that, you know it’s anything but comfortable. But have you ever wondered why? Why do carpenter bees hover? Why do they have a penchant for chasing people?

Why Do Carpenter Bees Hover? Reasons for Carpenter Bee Encounters

If a carpenter bee is hovering towards you, there's a specific reason for that. CC Image courtesy of Zunaid on Wikipedia

You’re wearing the wrong color

Carpenter bees, like all their buzzing cousins, see colors differently compared to humans. In fact, they can see color 5 times faster than us, and they can do this while flying at high speeds. That’s equivalent to spotting a single flower by the roadside, all while you’re riding a vehicle that’s running in full speed.

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Of course, all bees have this incredible skill to increase their chances of surviving. Foraging bees have adapted to use color in locating good flowers and in bringing home nectar and pollen to their colony.

However, this dependence on color can mean trouble for us humans. Simply put, if you wear pink and yellow, carpenter bees will link those hues to flowers and confusingly hover over you.

As for darker hues like red and black, it’s been said that bees have adapted to associate them to predators’ fur. Note that bees can’t see the color red because of their affinity for ultra-violate light, so black and red look exactly the same for them, mimicking a bear or a skunk’s fur. As a result, some bees will become aggressive and chase you.

So if you want to stay out of the carpenter bee’s radar, choose white. According to Rest Easy Pest Control, there’s a reason why beekeepers wear it all the time. The lack of color is easy to ignore, and it’s purely neutral.

You’re near their nest

The male carpenter bee cannot sting. But ironically, it’s infamous for being hostile towards intruders.

According to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science, male carpenter bees will often go after insects that approach their nest, darting towards them if they come too close. They’re so territorial that they have a reputation for following humans and hovering over them, especially when they move too quickly or wave their hands in the air.

Like an ape beating its chest to show dominance and bravado, these bees hover over people for a short distance in an attempt to chase them off. And not recognizing it causes a lot of us to panic over getting stung.

You smell ‘nice’ to them

Why do carpenter bees hover? All bees have a keen sense of smell. Wearing a strong aromatic scent throws them off and confuses them. This causes them to stick to you, trying to figure you out.

Smelling is another survival skill for bees. They need it to hunt for nicely scented flowers. They also use that skill to communicate, since pheromones are essentially a form of scent. So wearing fragrant products can get you into a lot of trouble. Hair sprays, perfumes, tonics, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, deodorants, body sprays and even detergents can smell so overpowering that they attract confused bees.

So the next time you go on an outdoor trip during spring, remember these three reasons. They’ll help you decrease your chances of crossing paths with carpenter bees or just about any other bee out there.

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