Violet Carpenter Bee

Scientific name : Xylocopa violacea

Violet Carpenter Bees are big, beautiful and completely harmless to us – they do not sting! On first impressions the bees may appear to be completely black in colour, but when the sunlight catches their wings, a beautiful purple-blue sheen is reflected there, hence their scientific name of ‘violacea‘.

March -Taking nectar from Asphodel flowers

The bees can use their weight to take nectar without collecting pollen

Behaviour: 

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 ‘cheat’ and steal nectar from long tubular flowers, using their their size and weight to break into them from above, taking the sweet reward without collecting and distributing any pollen.

 

 

Violet Carpenter Bees take nectar from a wide variety of flower species

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; 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. In a natural habitat they will often choose a fallen tree trunk or a standing tree that has parts beginning to soften with decay.

But they’re happy to utilise the facilities we provide too – a friend had one queen that tunnelled into a wooden door on an outhouse and did quite a bit of damage, although being an old door it may well have been starting to decay beneath the paint, giving her easy access. I’ve also watched one take over much of the bamboo-tube accommodation provided by a bee-hotel. It was fascinating to watch her squeeze herself in to the seemingly much-too-narrow tube.      

5 responses to “Violet Carpenter Bee

  1. I have seen one of those on Verbena flowers here. What an interesting write up about this creature.

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  2. Fascinating, thank you! We have seen a few of these in and near our holiday villa outside Gaucin – my son has a slightly horrified fascination with them and id’d them for us. We saw one yesterday at a painfully hip beach bar near Tarifa, disappearing into a hole in a wooden beam above our heads. I actually stumbled across your great blog today after driving past the San Roque storks a few times and heading online to find out more. Lots to read in the 2 days we have left here!

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    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope you enjoyed your time up in lovely Gaucin and down in Tarifa – it’s such a shame it’s become more hip & trendy over the last few years, but always did prefer it out of season! I can understand why these big beauties make some folks a little wary – my daughter thought I’d called them ‘Violent’ Carpenter Bees when she was younger! Best wishes

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