Scientific name : Xylocopa violacea
Violet Carpenter Bees are large, having a body length of 20-28mms. On first impressions the bees appear to be completely black in colour, but when the sunlight catches their wings, a beautiful purple-blue sheen is reflected there, hence the scientific name ‘violacea‘.
The bees visit flowering plants and shrubs throughout the spring and summer, but may be seen on the wing as early in February or even January where flowers are present. On cooler days in the early spring they often ‘sunbathe’ on the warm trunks of trees, wooden fence posts and the like. The bees are very efficient pollinators of open flowers but can also use their size and weight to break into long tubular flowers from above and steal the nectar without collecting and distributing any pollen.
Despite their size the bees are not aggressive and their mission in life is simply to collect nectar and pollen from flowers. The male does not have the ability to sting, and as is the case with most species of bee, the female will only sting as a means of self-defence. The males pursue females that they wish to mate with and at that time will also chase off other males that may be in competition.
The name ‘carpenter bee’ is due to their tunnelling into dead wood in order to lay their eggs, although they will also utilize an existing tunnel such as a bamboo tube. The female uses her mandibles to chew into the wood, creating tunnels into which she will lay up to 15 eggs. Each egg will be provided with pollen on which to eat when it hatches.