Xylocopa / large carpenter Bee

Family: Apidae

Genus: Xylocopa

Common Name: Large Carpenter Bee

APPEARANCE

Physical Appearance

Color varies from shiny or iridescent black to brown or golden. Most species have a hairy thorax and relatively hairless, shiny abdomen.  Males and females of many species are different colors, with the males often a lighter color over part or all of their bodies.

 

The female carries pollen in a brush of specialized hairs, called a scopa, on each hind leg.

 

Characteristics

Both males and females are long-lived. Females usually live well into their second year. Males and female siblings in their first year of life often overwinter together in their natal nest, and do not find mates until the following spring.

 

Despite their large size, carpenter bees are very gentle. The males may put on a loud and energetic display of buzzing and swooping around flowers where females forage, but this is all bluster. Like all male bees, male carpenter bees lack a stinger, and so are harmless to humans.

Carpenter bees have long tongues and so are able to reach nectar at the base of deep tubular flowers;  despite this ability, both sexes are known to occasionally “rob” nectar by chewing a hole at the base of a flower.

 

Female carpenter bees are able to buzz-pollinate the flowers of certain plants, sonically releasing a burst of pollen from deep pores in the anthers.

 

As they are long-lived and active throughout much of the year, carpenter bees tend to be excellent general pollinators, collecting pollen and nectar from a wide range of seasonal plants. This characteristic, taken together with the female’s ability to buzz-pollinate the flowers of various plants, makes carpenter bees valuable crop pollinators.

 

Size: Medium to very large, robust bee, 1/2 to 1-1/4 inch in length.

HABITS

Distribution

A largely tropical bee, there are about 375 species of Xylocopa worldwide. A number of Xylocopa species are also found in desert environments. In North America, most of the 9 species are found in the western and southwestern United States, with only one species, Xylocopa virginica, having a range which extends northward into parts of southern Canada.

 

Number of species in North America

Nine, most of which are restricted to the United States. Only one species is found in Canada.

 

Emergence Time
Early spring through fall

 

Nesting Habit
Wood nesting. The female uses her powerful jaws to excavate her nest tunnels in soft or rotten wood. A few species build their nests in the hollow stems of plants. Juvenile males and females born in summer typically overwinter together in their natal nest.

 

Pollinated Garden Crops Include

Blueberry
Blackberry
Peppers

 

Additional Flowers Visited in Natural Areas
Parkinsonia (paloverde, Jerusalem thorn)
Rubus (blackberry)
Wisteria

Visited Plants

Agastache / Giant Hyssop

Asclepias / Milkweed

Cercis / Redbud

Larrea / Creosote Bush

Lupinus / Lupine

Monarda / Beebalm

Penstemon / Beardtongue

Prunus / Plum

Pycnanthemum / Mountainmint

Rhododendron / Rhododendron

Rosa / Rose

Rudbeckia / Coneflower

Salix / Willow

Salvia / Sage

Solidago / Goldenrod

Symphyotrichum / Aster

Vaccinium / Blueberry

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