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Laidlaw Facility / Carpenter Bees

Photo: Bumble bee

This is a female Xylocopata tabaniformis orpifex robbing nectar from sage. Click to enlarge. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Carpenter Bees

California is home to three carpenter bee species, notes native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology.

Xylocopa varipuncta occurs in the Central Valley and southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and southward through Mexico.  It is large (about the size of a queen bumble bee), with all black females and golden/buff-colored males with green eyes.   Females have dark wings with violet reflections.

X. californica occurs in the foothills surrounding the Central Valley, the Transverse Ranges (Los Angeles) of southern California, and areas of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. It is large, nearly the size of X. varipuncta, but with distinctive bluish metallic reflections on the body.  Females have dark smokey brown wings.

X. tabaniformis orpifex occurs in most of the same areas as X. californica, but extends more into the center of the Central Valley, probably due primarily to increased nest sites such as redwood arbors and fences. It can be a pest when it gets into untreated redwood used for water tanks or structural timbers.  It is the smallest of the three species, much larger than a honey bee, but about half the size of the other two carpenter bees.  Females are black with light smokey-colored wings.  The male has bright yellow marks on the lower part of its face and some yellow hairs on the top front of its thorax.