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Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee
Xylocopa virginica
(Order Hymenoptera; Family Anthophoridae)

Xylocopa virginica (photo by Amy Coffman)
(Kansas: Sedgwick County. Wichita State University, 37°43’16.44”N, 97°17’33.31”W. In a flower patch. 25 August 2011).

Adult Diagnosis:  Carpenter bees resemble bumblebees, but their abdomen is hairless and shiny black.  They are covered with thick brownish-yellow or gray hair on the thorax.  Beneath the hair, the body is shining black or dark blue to greenish.  Typical body length for a carpenter bee is 19 mm.

Xylocopa virginica (from:

Natural History: Carpenter bees are most abundant in the late spring and early summer.  Male bees are aggressive but harmless since they lack stingers.  Females however, have a modified ovipositor that can inflict a painful sting when the bee is threatened.

Carpenter bees overwinter as adults in wood within abandoned nest tunnels and emerge in the spring, usually around April or May. In late spring the males die, and after mating, the females create tunnels in wood and lay their fertilized eggs within small cells. The larvae feed on balls of pollen and emerge as adults in late summer. Females can live up to two years.

This common bee exhibits subsociality, with the female doing the majority of the work.

Distribution:  Carpenter bees are found throughout the eastern United States southward to Texas and northern Florida.

Distribution map (from:

Habitat:  Carpenter bees make nest burrows in wood with their jaws.  They commonly nest in outbuildings and old barns.
Check out this cool video on Carpenter Bee Tunnel and Development!

Diet:  Xylocopa viriginica feed on pollen and have sometimes been observed to nectar rob.

Carpenter bee on flower (from:

Conservation Status: Stable


Eastern Carpenter Bee—HD Mini-Documentary



Bug Guide: Species Diogmites angustipennis – Carpenter Bee:

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences—Entomology:

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture—Carpenter Bees:


Barthell, J. F., and T. A. Baird. 2004. Size variation and aggression among male Xylocopa virginica (L.) (Hymenoptera: Apidae) at a nesting site in central Oklahoma. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society (77: 10-20).

Gerling, D., and H. R. Hermann. 1978. Biology and mating behavior of Xylocopa virginica L. (Hymenoptera, Anthophoridae). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (3: 99-111).

Salsbury, G. A., and S. C. White. 2000. Insects in Kansas. Kansas Department of Agriculture, KS.

Submitted by: Amy Coffman, November 2011

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Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
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