European Wool Carder Bee: Essential Facts and Tips

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The European Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum) is a fascinating solitary bee species native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Accidentally introduced in the United States during the 1950s, this species has since established itself in various parts of the country, playing an essential role in pollination.

As members of the Megachilidae family, which also includes mason and leafcutter bees, the European Wool Carder Bee has unique nesting behaviors. Females collect soft, downy hairs from fuzzy plants to construct their nests, giving the species its name. Males, on the other hand, exhibit territorial mating patterns and aggressively defend flowers in their vicinity, ensuring their success in reproduction.

In this article, you’ll learn about the key features, nesting habits, and various roles that European Wool Carder Bees play in ecosystems. This information will provide a deeper understanding of these fascinating creatures and how they contribute to the environment around them.

European Wool Carder Bee Basics

Identification and Physical Features

The European Wool Carder Bee, known scientifically as Anthidium manicatum, is a species of bee that is somewhat large and can range in size from 11 to 17 mm. These bees resemble honey bees but have a few key differences.

  • Size: European Wool Carder Bees are about the same size as honey bees, with males ranging from 14 to 17 mm and females slightly smaller. 1
  • Appearance: They have bright yellow markings that may be mistaken for yellow jackets, but they are hairier and more robust in shape. 1

For easy comparison, here’s a summary of their differences:

Feature European Wool Carder Bee Honey Bee
Size 11 to 17 mm 12 to 16 mm
Yellow Markings Yes No
Body Shape More robust Slender
Hairiness Hairier Less hairy

Behavior and Habitat

These bees also exhibit distinctive behavior compared to other bees like honey bees or bumble bees. Males display territorial behavior, using their spurs to deter other bees from entering their area. 2 Female bees, while less aggressive, are known for their specialized nesting habits.

This species is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa but was accidentally introduced to the United States in the 1950s, where it has since spread across the country. 3 They are commonly found nesting near plants like lamb’s ear, where they trim the trichomes for their nest construction. 4

Distribution and Range Expansion

North America

The European Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum) is a species native to Europe but has expanded its range to many parts of the United States. This bee was first recognized as present in Colorado around 2009, and has since become a widespread inhabitant of flower gardens throughout the state ^. Apart from Colorado, the Wool Carder Bee can be found on the middle to west coast of North America and Mexico ^.

South America

Currently, there is limited information available on the distribution of European Wool Carder Bee in South America. It is essential to conduct further research and studies to determine their presence or range expansion in South America.

Key Characteristics of European Wool Carder Bee:

  • Size: 11 to 17 mm (approximately the size of a honey bee)
  • Bright yellow markings, often mistaken for yellow jackets
  • Hairier and more robust in shape than yellow jackets
  • Unique pollen-carrying method, using the abdomen instead of hind legs ^

Nesting and Reproduction

Nest Building Materials

European Wool Carder Bees, also known as Anthidium manicatum, are cavity-nesting bees that use plant material in their nests. Females collect soft downy hairs (trichomes) from fuzzy plants like the lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) by scraping it with their mandibles, a behavior called “carding” (source).

Mating and Breeding

Males fiercely compete for breeding rights with females, displaying aggressive territorial behavior. During mating, males capture females in mid-air and initiate copulation. Once a male has mated with a female, he will continue to patrol his territory, looking for other potential mates.

Below are some characteristics of the European Wool Carder Bee:

  • Size: Males range from 14 to 17 mm, while females are smaller at 11 to 17 mm (source).
  • Color: Bright yellow markings on a black body, resembling yellow jackets but with hairier and more robust bodies.
  • Nesting: They build nests in cavities using collected plant material.
  • Reproduction: Males are territorial and compete for breeding rights with females.

A comparison between European Wool Carder Bees and Honey Bees:

European Wool Carder Bee Honey Bee
Solitary, cavity-nesting Social, hive-dwelling
Collects plant material for nests Produces wax for nests
Males fiercely compete for breeding rights Male drones mate with queen bees to reproduce
Does not produce honey Produces honey


Aggressive Behavior and Competition

Interactions with Other Insects

The aggressive behavior of the European Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum) is quite unique. Males are known to chase away other insects, like bees, butterflies, and even small birds1. They compete with other bees for shared resources, such as food and nesting spaces.

  • Aggressive towards other insects
  • Compete with similar species for resources

In comparison, other bees in the Hymenoptera order, such as the bumblebee, mason bee, and wasps, exhibit differing levels of aggression and competition:

Insect Aggressiveness Level Competition
European Wool Carder Bee High High
Bumblebee Low Moderate
Mason Bee Low Moderate
Wasps High Moderate

Defending Territories

Male wool carder bees are territorial and exhibit dominant behaviors2. They defend their territory by employing their barbed abdomen to attack and ward off intruders.

  • Use barbs on abdomen
  • Attack and ward off intruders

For example, a dominant male wool carder bee can use its sharp barbs to scratch and injure opposing insects3, such as ants or other bees who dare to venture into their territory.

In conclusion, the European Wool Carder Bee stands out with its aggressive behavior and territorial nature, making it a fascinating species to observe and study.

Conservation and Impact on Native Species

The European Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum) is a non-native bee belonging to the Megachilidae family. It has been introduced to various parts of the world, including North America. As a non-native species, the potential impact on native pollinators and ecosystems is a concern.

One potential impact of the European Wool Carder Bee is competition with native bees. For example, they may compete with native species for resources such as nesting materials, food, and cavity spaces.

Key Features:

  • Size: 11 to 17 mm, similar to a honey bee
  • Appearance: Yellow and black markings, hairier and more robust than yellow jackets
  • Nesting: Use plant hairs to construct nests, often in small cavities

Another non-native bee, Anthidium maculosum, is a wool carder bee with similar characteristics and can also impact native species. A comparison of these two bees can be helpful in conservation efforts.

Comparison Table:

Feature European Wool Carder Bee Anthidium Maculosum
Size 11 to 17 mm Similar
Appearance Yellow and black Yellow and black
Nesting Material Plant hairs Plant hairs
Range Introduced worldwide North America, Mexico

To track the spread and impact of these non-native bees, citizen science initiatives like iNaturalist can be valuable. It allows individuals to contribute photographs, location data, and observations, helping researchers build a map of their distribution.

In conclusion, it is essential to monitor the distribution and impact of non-native bees like the European Wool Carder Bee and Anthidium maculosum. Conservation efforts must focus on understanding their impact on native species, ecosystems, and implementing appropriate measures to protect the biodiversity of pollinators.

How to Attract and Support European Wool Carder Bees

Garden and Habitat Management

To attract and support European Wool Carder Bees, create a suitable garden environment. Some useful tips include:

  • Planting lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), a preferred wool carder bee nesting material source
  • Providing flowering plants that produce nectar and pollen, foraging sources for adult bees
  • Maintaining a variety of plants with a long blooming season to ensure a continuous food supply

Holes and Habitat

European Wool Carder Bees belong to the Anthidiini tribe within the Apoidea family. They are solitary bees that create nests in pre-existing holes or cavities. Add these elements to your garden:

  • Creating small cavities in dead wood or providing bundles of hollow stems
  • Ensuring potential nesting sites are sheltered and facing southwards for optimal sun exposure

Monitoring and Reporting Sightings

As part of the conservation effort for European Wool Carder Bees, monitoring and reporting sightings are crucial activities. Keep an eye out for these characteristics:

  • Size: 11-17mm, about the size of a honeybee
  • Color: Bright yellow markings contrasted with dark body
  • Distinct feature: Carrying pollen on their abdomen

If you spot a European Wool Carder Bee, consider documenting and sharing your observation. This information contributes to a better understanding of their distribution and abundance.


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Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – European Wool Carder Bee


Could you help me identify this bee?
Location: Colorado Springs CO
June 30, 2011 10:34 am
I grow a lot of flowers to attract bees. I was hoping you could identify this one for me.
Signature: ?

European Wool Carder Bee

Dear ?,
You submitted two different species.  One is a Longhorned Bee and the second is the one we are really interested in posting, a European Wool Carder Bee
, Anthidium manicatum.  This introduced species is only represented on our site with two postings from 2006.  According to BugGuide:  “Females collect ‘wool’ from downy plants such as Lamb’s Ears to line their nest cavities” and “Males defend their territory very aggressively not only against other males but also against other flower visitors.”

Thank you for your response. Sorry I miss understood the “how to address the letter. My name is Eva. That is very interesting to see that the European Wool Bee has only been represented on your site so few times. I did submit a photo to the facebook site. Feel free to use the photos if needed. Best wishes, Eva

Letter 2 – European Wool Carder Bee


Subject: Unknown bee/flry
Location: Near Prescott, Ontario on the St. Lawrence River
July 7, 2013 1:25 pm
On July 1st I noticed a insect flying around my flowers that I’ve never seen before. It looked like a honey bee but it had a wider abdomen and rather than stripes, it had yellow ”blocks” down each side of the abdomen. It was about the size of a bumblebee. It was hanging around the salvia plant but it didn’t act like a regular bee. It kept landing on leaves and just sitting there or it would land on a flower, briefly walk a few steps and then take off again. It didn’t seem to be collecting nectar like bees do. With so many invasive insects around, I was concerned. This salvia plant is next to my mulberry tree. So I grabbed my camera and took several pictures. Sometimes it would sit like this with it’s wings open but other times it would sit with it’s wings closed over it’s back just like a bee.
Signature: Joan

European Wool Carder Bee
European Wool Carder Bee

Hi Joan,
This is a non-native European Wool Carder Bee, Anthidium manicatum, and the jury is still out on if this is considered an invasive species or merely one that is not native, but does not significantly, negatively impact our New World ecosystems.  We will do additional research.  Meanwhile, BugGuide has some information.

Letter 3 – European Wool Carder Bee


Subject: Small yellow and black bees in my bathroom
Location: Northeast Ohio
August 5, 2016 11:01 am
Hi bugman,
We are in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio, near Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We’ve had several very small bees come in through our bathroom exhaust fan. They are 1 cm long and have broken yellow stripes across their back. Most of them are dead by the time we Find them on the bathroom floor, but we have relocated 2 living bees back to the great outdoors. Those 2 seemed very docile. I’m an environmental educator but I can’t find this little bee in my guides or in my memory banks. Can you help me identify them please?
Signature: Cuyahoga Claudia

European Wool Carder Bee
European Wool Carder Bee

Dear Cuyahoga Claudia,
This is an introduced European Wool Carder Bee,
Anthidium manicatum, which you can verify by comparing your images to images of living individuals on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Females collect “wool” from downy plants such as Lamb’s Ears to line their nest cavities” and “Introduced from Europe before 1963; spreading throughout NE. & W. NA”.  The fact that it is an imported species may account for its lack of inclusion in guide books.

European Wool Carder Bee
European Wool Carder Bee

Thank you so much! I came across a picture of a wool carder bee shortly after I sent in my message and thought it was the closest I had seen, but I still wasn’t sure. I hope they stop flinging themselves to their death through my exhaust fan- they’re beautiful little bees!
Thanks again,

Letter 4 – European Wool Carder Bee body found in bathroom


Subject: I can’t tell if it’s a bee?
Location: Seattle Region, Washington
August 1, 2017 5:00 pm
I found this bug already beheaded lying on my bathroom floor.
My first thought was that it was a bee, but the stripe pattern made me question it? I’ve never seen a bee before that only had yellow on its sides
Ive tried a lot of different google searches but I can’t seem to find what this is.
I don’t know about bug identification. But it’s head definitely doesn’t look like on of a fly to me? but it’s body doesn’t seem like the shape of a wasp? So I assume it must be a type of bee?
Im sorry that I don’t have any photos from different angles.
Signature: Sorry to bother you, but thank you so much for your help x

Body of a European Wool Carder Bee

This looks to us like the body of a European Wool Carder Bee.  Here is a BugGuide image for reference.  According to BugGuide:  “Introduced from Europe before 1963; spreading throughout NE. & W. NA.”

Letter 5 – European Wool Carder Bee defends territory from other Bees


Subject:  Large bee hunting wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Portland,  Oregon
Date: 08/10/2018
Time: 05:20 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  For several years we’ve had a type of “hovering” yellow jacket type wasp that hunts and kills bees. Usually rip the wings off, rarely takes the bee, just leaves it to die. This year, huge fuzzy ones, sort of golden brown colored fur, have shown up. Yesterday alone I found a dozen injured bees. It also goes after bumblebees. Today I managed to kill one. It’s over 2cm long and has a 3 barbed tail. I cannot find anything comparable. Some kind of hybrid? Thoughts? Second photo is the monster next to one of the regular sized non fuzzy bee hunters.
How you want your letter signed:  Bee lover

Male European Wool Carder Bee: guilty of Apicide

Date: 08/11/2018
Time: 05:07 PM EDT
Dear bugman,
I have made a positive ID of the bee killer. They are, in fact, European wool carder bees, considered an invasive species here in Oregon. I feel 100% justified in my “carnage” if it spares some of the many native pollinators (I actually had Western bumblebees this year!) I have here on my little plot, and I hope the big one was a queen. Last year these guys took down a yellow faced bumblebee queen. No need to answer my id question. Thank you.

“Second photo is the monster next to one of the regular sized non fuzzy bee hunters.”
Dear Bee Lover,
Thanks so much for getting back to us with what you learned because you provided some very interesting information for our readers that we did not know, but we would also like some clarification.  According to BugGuide regarding the introduced European Wool Carder Bees (and if what you observed is accurate, we agree that this is NOT Unnecessary Carnage):  “Males defend their territory very aggressively not only against other males but also against other flower visitors” but we did not realize that included apicide.  In the case of this species, the size difference between the males and the females is the opposite of what we have come to expect from most Hymenopterans where the female is the larger sex because BugGuide indicates:  “Female: 11–13 mm. Male: 14–17 mm”  You wrote:  “Second photo is the monster next to one of the regular sized non fuzzy bee hunters.”  You included two images of the yellow and black male Wool Carder Bee which is the protagonist in your letter, and the second image contains that individual as well as a much larger Hymenopteran, which does not agree with what you wrote.  Additionally, both look fuzzy and you wrote about a different predator that “regular sized non fuzzy bee hunters.”  What you wrote does not seem to agree with your images.  Please clarify because it seems the “‘hovering’ yellow jacket type wasp that hunts and kills bees” is actually the male European Wool Carder Bee and the “monster” is still not identified.  See our posting and please comment on the posting for clarification.

Letter 6 – European Wool Carder Bee from Spain


Subject:  Large Wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  South of Spain
Date: 08/04/2018
Time: 05:57 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bugman,
Saved this wasp looking insect from the pool but it’s much larger than a regular wasp. Any ideas as to what it may be?
Many thanks
How you want your letter signed:  Voni

European Wool Carder Bee

Dear Voni,
This is an exciting posting for us because this is a European Wool Carder Bee,
Anthidium manicatum, and all of the representatives of the species on our site are from North America because according to BugGuide: “Introduced from Europe before 1963; spreading throughout NE. & W. NA.”  BugGuide also states:  “Females collect ‘wool’ from downy plants such as Lamb’s Ears to line their nest cavities” and “Robust, black and yellow. Males significantly larger than females.”   Discover Life has some great images and we also found a posting from Spain on FlickR.  We are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award because of your pool rescue.

Letter 7 – Male Wool Carder Bee


Subject: Wool Carder Bee
Location: Royal Oak, Michigan
September 2, 2013 6:27 pm
Dear Bugman,
Once again, your site has served as a valuable resource in my ’backyard bugging’. Today I came across what appears to be a wool carder bee, as submitted by previous guests here. I did observe some very aggressive behavior by this fellow as he pounced on the contentedly grazing bees on my giant hyssop. BugGuide says ”they visit garden flowers and weeds preferring blue flowers that have long throats”, so this plant species fits right in. I say it is a ”he” as a previous poster had pointed out that there are three rasps at the end of the abdomen, however I found here ( that there are actually 5 rasps, the other two higher up the abdomen on either side which can be seen in photo #2 if you look very closely. Thanks again for providing such a fantastic site – it has really helped me get a jumping off point for doing more investigating on my own.
Signature: DaleShannon

Wool Carder Bee
Wool Carder Bee

Hi Dale,
Thanks for sending in your photos of a male Wool Carder Bee and also for providing us with information from your research.  This University of California Newsroom article also has some interesting information.

Male Wool Carder Bee showing abdominal spikes
Male Wool Carder Bee showing abdominal spikes

Letter 8 – Male Woolcarder Bee


Subject:  Agressive towards honeybees
Geographic location of the bug:  Sonoma, California
Date: 06/09/2020
Time: 12:07 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  In my aunts garden the statchys is blooming. There are so many different pollinators, including many honeybees. This insect caught our eye. It hovers, has drone-like flight. It is visiting the flowers but it is very attentive to the competitors. It’s spends about as much time attacking honeybees as it does visiting flowers. When it attacks it seems like it bites. We see many honeybees on the ground with half of a wing, in apparent suffering- It seems they have been hurt or intoxicated
How you want your letter signed:  Mollyanne

Woolcarder Bee

Dear Mollyanne,
This is a male, non-native Woolcarder Bee, a species native to Europe but present in North America since the mid 1960s.  According to BugGuide:  “Males defend their territory very aggressively not only against other males but also against other flower visitors” which explains the behavior towards Honey Bees that you witnessed.

Woolcarder Bee

Letter 9 – Probably Wool Carder Bee from Oregon


Subject: Sweat Bee/Hover Fly
Location: Linn Co., Oregon
October 18, 2016 11:06 pm
These photos were taken near the end of July on Browder Ridge, Oregon. I would appreciate an
Signature: D. Gudehus

Probably Wool Bee

Dear D. Gudehus,
We do not recognize this pretty and distinctive Bee.  We are posting it as unidentified and perhaps we will be able to research its identity when we return to the office.  We are leaving for the airport in two hours.  Perhaps one of our readers will write in with an identification.  It does not appear to be on Common Bee Pollinators of Oregon Crops.

Probably Wool Carder Bee

Letter 10 – Wool Carder Bee


Male Wool Carder Bee
I often refer to your website to identify a bug (and have had success with a few I’d been looking for for a year or two at least), and often out of sheer curiosity. I read the post about the Wool Carder Bee recently and thought it sounded cool and decided to keep an eye out for them… Strangely, I saw one on our Bee Balm Flower the next day and took these shots (you can clearly see the spikes on the one from behind). This one is male – the female was nearby but didn’t land within range for a clear shot (no zoom OR macro lens). Hope you like ’em. Keep up the good work!
SJ (Ontario)

Dear SJ,
Like them? We love them. We are so honored that you are allowing us to post your most excellent photos of a male Wool Carder Bee, Anthidium manicatum. We are also providing a link to a Wool Carder Bee site that states: “How common is the Wool Carder Bee? The Wool Carder Bee is quite an uncommon bee, but it is particularly associated with gardens. There has been a dramatic decline in the numbers of most species of bee in the wider countryside. Intensive agriculture leaves little opportunity for wild bees to thrive, and nowadays many bee species are more common in gardens than elsewhere! A sad reflection on the state of our countryside’s wildlife.”

Letter 11 – Wool Carder Bee


lost wool carder bee-mail
Dear Bugfolks–
Greetings from St. Louis, Missouri. Way back on June 23d, I sent you guys an e-mail about wool carder bees, but I’m guessing it either never got to you or got lost in WTB’s server upheaval shortly thereafter. So. I’ma try again. In May, I noticed a bee I had never seen before acting very territorial–chasing other bees and hoverflies away from all the patches of lamb’s ear on my front slope. Searching Missouri bees and North American bees online turned up no matches. “Hm,” thinks I, “Perhaps an exotic?” A website from the UK had pics of my guy listed as Anthidium manicatum, commonly known as the wool carder bee after the habit of the female of gathering fibers from furry-leaved plants to line its nest. Searching the scientific name turned up information regarding its introduction into the U.S., including a study by a team from Ohio State published in 2002 documenting expansion of its range westward; at that time, it wasn’t believed to have made it to St. Louis yet. I tried to get in touch with the study’s authors, and eventually contacted Dr. Randy Mitchell who said, “Yeah, that sure looks like A. manicatum,” and asked me to send specimens, but by that time, the lamb’s ear was done blooming and my little A. manicatum (assuming that ID is correct) community defunct for the season. Sigh. The timing on this identification endeavor has been entirely off. Anyway, I didn’t see A. manicatum or any of its Anthidium relatives on your site (WTB was the first site I checked in IDing my mystery bee), so I’m attaching four pictures that you’re welcome to use however you like. The first and second are male and female wool carders at rest. The third is tragically blurry, I know, of the male in flight, showing (if you look closely at the back end of the abdomen) the three spikes he uses to savage other bees when they don’t take a gentle hint and leave (I saw him do this! Wow!). The fourth is of a lamb’s ear leaf which the female has been “carding”: she has little scissor-like bits on her mouth with which she clips off the fibers; I watched her do this and then gather up in a ball and carry it back to her nest (in this case, a cavity in a large rock on my front slope, which is now neatly packed full of “wool” and, one assumes, eggs and food). Sorry this is so danged long; watching the activities of this bee community all spring was fascinating, and so I tend to blather on about it. I really appreciate your site and have been addicted to it ever since I used it to ID a Megarhyssa atrata which came to visit me in my kitchen; you set my mind at rest that I wasn’t halucinating GIANT SIX INCH WASPS!
patty d. kocot

male Wool Carder Bee female Wool Carder Bee

Dear Patty,
We are so sorry to have lost your original email and are thrilled you have resent it. We are happy to have received your photos. Your letter and all the research is absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information with our readership.

Letter 12 – Wool Carder Bee


Subject:  A stunning Syrphid for your enjoyment
Geographic location of the bug:  Silverdale, WA
Date: 07/14/2018
Time: 04:48 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  No real question, just a lovely image I snapped of a Syrphidn or Flower fly/hover fly (your guess is as good as mine on a proper species ID).
Enjoy, and keep up the awesome work!
How you want your letter signed:  Bug aficionado

Wool Carder Bee

Dear Bug aficionado,
Most Flies in the order Diptera have a single pair of wings, though some species are wingless.  At any rate, no Flies have two pairs of wings, which is the physical characteristic shared by other winged insects.  This is NOT a Syrphid Fly.  It is a Wool Carder Bee in the genus Anthidium.  According to BugGuide:  “Females collect down from pubescent plants and use it to line nest.”  We cannot provide a definitive species name to your individual.

Letter 13 – Possibly Wool Carder Bee Nest


Subject:  Another query for you
Geographic location of the bug:  Tarn region, South West France
Date: 10/18/2017
Time: 11:25 AM EDT
Hi bugman Daniel,
Thanks for your speedy reply and for answering my question. Great service! I think your website is fantastic, with so much info there – you must be really fascinated by all these bugs.
I have another query for you. Another piece of wood, this time poplar with about 1cm or just under half inch holes. The larvae have gone but left behind stuff like cotton wool with a hard case inside – now empty. I guess it’s another beetle, but bigger this time. Any ideas?
Best regards,
Phil Anfield

European Wool Carder Bee Nest, we believe

Hi again Phil,
We believe this is the nest of a European Wool Carder Bee, a species represented on BugGuide because it has been introduced to North America.  According to BugGuide:  “Females collect ‘wool’ from downy plants such as Lamb’s Ears to line their nest cavities.”  Here is a FlickR image and a BugGuide image of the nest.



  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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