Other Common Names
Males informally called 'teddy bear' bees (UC, Davis)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Syn: Xylocopa brasilianorum varipuncta
Explanation of Names
Xylocopa varipuncta has been confirmed via DNA to be a junior synonym of X. sonorina
X. sonorina refers to the sonorous sound of the bee.
14 spp. (in five subgenera) (1)
18-26 mm (Largest bees in CA)
Their eggs are the largest of all insect eggs. The Valley carpenter bee egg can be 15mm long. (UC, Davis)
Female is black with brassy reflections, perhaps.
Male is a striking tawny brown.
Apparently, no other Xylocopa are so sexually dimorphic.
sw US: CA-TX / plus Mexico including Baja California.
In Texas best known from El Paso and vicinity but also occurs locally elsewhere including the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In South Texas however the expected species in this subgenus is X. mexicanorum.
Southern range limits in Mexico are uncertain due to high likelihood of misidentification.
Described from the Hawaiian Islands, where introduced, and also occurs as an exotic species on various South Pacific islands.
Valleys and foothills with deciduous trees such as oaks.
Carpenter bees overwinter as adults in the tunnels and emerge in the spring. (UC, Davis)
May emerge earlier than X. californica?
Adults presumably take some pollen, like others of the genus. Due to their large size, carpenter bees cannot enter tubelike blossoms such as sage, so they slit the base of corolla, a practice known as "stealing the nectar" (without pollinating the flower). (UC, Davis). The Hosts section on its Discover Life species page
lists known floral associations based on specimen records and images.
Carpenter bees tunnel through wood to make their nests, carving with their mandibles, but they don't ingest the wood. Only the females excavate the tunnels, which average six to 10 inches in depth.
The males are territorial and can be quite aggressive. They hover and lie in wait for passing females.
To build their nests, the females select telephone poles, fences, decks, railings, eaves, siding, outdoor furniture and tree trunks. They prefer bare, unpainted or weathered wood, especially redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. They generally avoid painted or pressure-treated wood. (UC, Davis)
4/17/2020 introduced Name change based on Sheffield C, Heron J, Musetti L (2020) Xylocopa sonorina Smith, 1874 from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Hymenoptera: Apidae, Xylocopinae) with comments on its taxonomy. Biodiversity Data Journal 8: e49918.
Powell and Hogue, p. 352--describes sexual dimorphism (2)
--Walter Ebeling, Univ. California. Discussion and illustrations showing sexual dimorphism.