Subject: Giant bees!!!
Location: Suburbs of Detroit
July 9, 2012 5:39 pm
I have had these 2 huge lavender plants out front for four years, but this year it is COVERED with an abnormal amount of bees. Most of them I recognize as locals, but there are tons of these gigantic bees that are black and the wings look black at the ends and almost take on a triangular shape when at rest. The two pics I am submitting look similar, but may be different?
What are they and do they sting like yellow jackets (over and over) or like bees (who lose the stinger in your skin)??? I grew up on a farm and have never seen such large bees! I’m excited and nervous about them 😉
Signature: Go Blue Girl

Giant Resin Bee

Dear Go Blue Girl,
This is a Giant Resin Bee,
Megachile sculpturalis, an introduced species from Asia that has naturalized in North America.  According to Bugguide:  “They are opportunistic and nest in existing wooden cavities, rather than excavating their own. Effectively pollinate kudzu, another invasive species.  Aggressive, it attacks other bees; it has been reported killing honey bees.”  We do not have the answer to your stinging question, though we believe it might only be the worker Honey Bees that lose their stinger.  Honey Bee workers are not individuals in the sense that a solitary bee is.  It serves the hive to have a Honey Bee sting continue to deliver poison even though the bee dies.  It would not be to any evolutionary advantage for a solitary bee to die after stinging.

Giant Resin Bee

Eric Eaton responds to stinger query.
I think barbed stingers are peculiar to social bees and wasps, or at least honeybees and some yellowjackets.  So, the Giant Resin Bee could conceivably sting more than once, but in my experience solitary bees and wasps take a lot of provocation before they deploy their stingers.

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Location: Michigan

7 Responses to Giant Resin Bee

  1. Bugophile says:

    The stinging question is an interesting one. Many people say bumblebees don’t sting, I’ve even heard people say they can’t. Unfortunately, I have proof otherwise, having been stung twice by the same individual after it got caught in my pant leg. I always assumed that the fact that it stung twice was because the first time the stinger didn’t get a good grip. Maybe not the case? I recently took pictures of a large pre-deceased bumblebee which illustrated the stinger very well. It looked smooth, but just how big would the “hooks” be, anyway? Visible to the naked eye, or not? Would Eric Eaton or one of your other experts chime in on this?

    • bugman says:

      Your query was forwarded to Eric Eaton. Hopefully he will be able to elaborate.

    • Lucy says:

      Yes, they most certainly do sting! Although I have not experienced it myself, since my husband is highly allergic to any hymenoptera, I’ve done quite a bit of research on these insects. Apparently, they have one of the most painful stings of all of them.

  2. Bugophile says:

    Thanks a lot for your time, Daniel and Eric! Very cool info. My bumblebee sting was probably 30 yrs ago, but I remember it like yesterday. We were on a road vacation to the Yukon; the bee made its presence felt just as I was exiting our vehicle at a campground. I’ve often wondered how far it traveled with us before it announced itself to my shin. Only sting I’ve ever had from a bee, although I’ve been stung three or four times by paper wasps since then. Thanks again!

  3. Becca says:

    Hi there! Just wanted to add a little info on the sting of the Giant Resin Bee. I brushed up against a female who was taking shelter during a rainstorm. Her wings appeared to be rainsoaked so she wasn’t able to fly away in defense. She seemed perfectly fine after she stung me. An interesting bit of behavior was that she continued to warn me by lifting her abdomen in what seemed a threatening gesture. We have a couple dozen resin bees in our shed and I’ve never been stung or threatened by them. (Pensacola,FL)

    • bugman says:

      Perhaps your accidental encounter was perceived to be a threat, but your normal behavior does not trouble the bees.

  4. Ross Loos says:

    Bee stings differ from insect bites, and the venom or toxin of stinging insects is quite different. Therefore, the body’s reaction to a bee sting may differ significantly from one species to another…;’.

    Good day

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