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Large Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa virginica - male

Large Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa virginica - Male
Amherst, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, USA
April 21, 2004
There are a couple of these nesting at the top of our house. Boy, are they BIG. I caught this one cleaning it's front legs and antenna on our Forsythia bush.

I checked this image with Peterson's Guide (p. 360) and the wing veination and non-hairy abdomen tell me this isn't a Bumblebee.


Big Carptenter bee = Xylocopa virginica!
Nice photo! Yes, the big bees with naked abdomens. I always used to call them bumblebees and then learned the error of my ways. Looking at Insects of Cedar Creek, they are in family ANTHOPHORIDAE: Cuckoo/Carpenter Bees, different than the Bumblebees/honeybees, Apidae. (I did not know that.) The big Carpenter Bees aren't in their collection, but they say those are genus Xylocopa. lists 10 North American species in the genus. Cedar Creek folks say most of family are in the western US.

Yay! I found a good reference on them in the east, at Univ. of Florida. They say:
In America north of Mexico, the subfamily Xylocopinae is composed of two genera, Ceratina (small carpenter bees) and Xylocopa (large carpenter bees)....

The easiest method of separating Ceratina from Xylocopa is by size: Ceratina are less than 8 mm in length, whereas Xylocopa are 20 mm or larger....

The two species of Xylocopa which occur in Florida are the only species in the eastern United States, namely X. micans Lepeletier and X. virginica (Linnaeus).... Xylocopa micans Lepeletier is known from southeastern Virginia south to Florida, west to Texas, and south to Guatemala. The typical form of X. virginica (Linnaeus) is known throughout the eastern United States southward to Texas and northern Florida; the subspecies X. virginica krombeini Hurd is restricted to Florida from Sumter and Lake Counties south to Dade County (Hurd 1955, 1961).

They also give a key for separating the two species. Seems like X. micans always has a blue or greenish-blue abdomen. X. virginica is all black. All the ones I see here in North Carolina have jet-black abdomens, so I guess they are X. virginica. Seems pretty certain. From their range, seems like you must have only X. virginica in Maine.

I'm happy about this, I've puzzled over these big bees for a long time, and had never been able to get a handle on them.

Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

"in family ANTHOPHORIDAE..."
not anymore

Anthophoridae is no longer recognized and all bees formerly placed therein are now considered Apidae

"All the ones I see here in North Carolina have jet-black abdomens, so I guess they are X. virginica"

very likely, but X. micans can also be found in NC on the coastal plain

Nice work...
Hey Patrick,

Nice homework on this bee! It looks like it also is a male based on the UF diagram showing the size of the compound eyes.

...Now I have to get a photo of the female...

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