Currently viewing the category: "Carpenter Bee"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

What Is this
Hi Mr. Bugman,
Could you help me identify this critter? It is as large as the biggest woodcutter bee, but never seems to behave like a bee. We see it annually in the spring in San Jose California. It only appears in the afternoons once the temperature hits 70 degrees F, or more (never less). It takes up a station in a spindly bush where it charts out an erratic course and constantly flies in, and through, the bush. I have never seen one land, it just flies constantly, making picture taking a challenge. I have never seen it engage in any feeding behavior, sipping nectar from flowers, munching on leaves or even chasing or catching other insects. Seems to have no stinger or proboscis. The wings are clear. There are several that have appeared this year, but each stakes out a plant and flies sentry duty around it, chasing other examples away. They seem partial to blueberry bushes and plants in that family, though this one was seen near a dwarf apple tree. They never appear when the plant is fruiting, however. I took this picture about a month ago, and this seems about the end of the season for spotting them. I can not detect any coloration on the clear wings, but they do appear to be veined. Can you help with the identification? Thanks,
Bill Knickel

Hi Bill,
This is a male Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipuncta. The female is a robust black bee and the much shorter lived male is this lovely golden color.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Carpenter Bees
I bet you guys have fun on your sight. I thought you might like the attached photo of a male and female carpenter bee from El Paso, TX. The differing colors are great. I believe them to be a Xylocopa species. According to John L. Neff of the Central Texas Melittological Institute in Austin, it is either X. varipuncta (your Valley Carpenter Bee) or more likely, X. mexicanorum, given distribution records. The picture was taken on Feb 19, 2005, which is a bit early for them to be out and about (they usually show up, based on my recollection, about April and May). They were rather lethargic for quite some time despite that it was not cold (upper 70s that day). The tree is a “Mexican Elder”, my wife tells me a Sambucus mexicana, though she is not sure. The site is: El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, 2 miles n. of downtown.
Glenn Davis

Hi Glenn,
Thank you so much for sending in the gorgeous photo.

Ed. Note: When this image arrived last spring, we fell in love with it. We are always cheered by the presence of these large lumbering black female Valley Carpenter Bees in our garden each spring. They frequent the sweet peas and the honeysuckle. The female bees remain in the garden most of the summer. One year a bee nested in our carob tree and another year we found a nest in a sumac. The female bee labors many hours creating a tunnel. she fills the end of the tunnel with pollen and nectar and lays an egg, sealing the chamber with wood pulp. She will create about five or six chambers, each housing a single egg, within the tunnel. The adults emerge in about 45 days. Adult female bees will overwinter and create a new nest in the spring. The golden male bees are very short lived and have a very different, more nervous flight pattern. We are eagerly awaiting the appearance of the first male bees in our garden this spring. Male bees are attracted to our lantana and digitalis.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

golden bumble bee??
Hi!,
I took pictures of this guy today, he is as big as a bumble bee, but golden with green eyes! He sure loved all the pollen! Can you tell me what type of bee he is? Thanks,
Amber
Madera California

Hi Amber,
This is our featured Bug of the Month, the Valley Carpenter Bee. The male bee is golden like your example, and the female bee is black. We have not seen any male bees in our yard yet this year, but the females are very busy gathering pollen from our sweet peas and honeysuckle. We photographed a female bee today and will be posting that image after we answer some of our readers’ questions.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
We photographed the female Valley Carpenter Bee covered in pollen as she gathered nectar from our sweet peas. When she is gathering the pollen from the sweet peas, the blossoms pistel pushes up through the petals and caresses the bee, and is fertilized by the pollen trapped on the bees fuzzy body.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I can’t find it…
…and I don’t know how your readers get such clear closeup photos! I just found a (dead) fuzzy golden winged beetle-looking bug in the driveway. I’m attaching a couple of also fuzzy photos.
Richey and Lee Grude
Sunnyvale CA

Hi Richey and Lee,
This is a male Valley Carpenter Bee. The golden males are very short lived. The black female bees live much longer. There are currently 3 females busily gathering nectar from our wisteria which has just begun to bloom.
Regarding your problems with focus on your digital camera: Many digital cameras have a macro feature for close-ups. We would strongly recommend enrolling in a digital photography class at your nearby Community College. At Los Angeles City College, we offer a beginning digital photograpy course and many people who just want to learn to use their own digital cameras more competantly enroll in the course. They also benefit from close association with dedicated studentw who want to make photography their career.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Golden Bee on Don Juan Rose
This bee seemed to be coming out of a pupae ? state since it couldn’t fly at the time these pictures were taken. I live in Tucson, AZ. and I also have a nest of giant Carpenter Bees in my back yard. Although they are black and do not appear to have a stinger. Could this be a youngster or a Queen? Thought you might like to see the pictures. I know you guys are busy! This was just a curiosity not an emergency. Sincerely,
Steve Dennett

Hi Steve,
The Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipunctata, is sexually dimorphic. The female is the large black bee you mention, and the male is the lovely golden bee in your photo. These bees are found in California, Arizona and Baja California Mexico.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination