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The Violet Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa Violacea

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Violet Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa Violacea

This beautiful bee seems to love purple flowers

This beautiful bee seems to love purple flowers

The Carpenter Bee

The Carpenter Bee belongs to the genus Xylocopa and there are over 730 species of the carpenter bee in the world.

The Carpenter bee which is in my particular neck of the woods is the Xylocopa Violacea.

I live on Spain’s Costa Blanca where the Carpenter bee is also known as the ‘Mijas Bee’ and it is one of the biggest bees that I have seen.

The Carpenter bee is very difficult to photograph because it is so dark, and because of its size in flight it is an extremely impressive looking bee .



The Carpenter bee in Spain, although a bee, is not the same colour that we usually associate with bees. The Carpenter bee's body is a bluish black colour and they can be up to an inch long which is huge.

Its body consists of three parts the head, Thorax and abdomen. It has two sets of wings that are attached to its thorax.

It has an exoskeleton and because this exoskeleton does not grow with them they have to molt in order to accommodate their growth.

This exoskeleton helps to protect the bee, and the presence of chitin in the exoskeleton gives it strength and mobility. Chitin is a polymer of glucose and the small movable plates of chitin in the bee's exoskeleton support a lot of weight with very little material.

The first time I saw one flying it was so big that I thought that it was a big beetle. It was not until it landed on a flower that I could see that it was a bee.

When you see this bee for the first time, because of its size and its dark colour it looks to be a very scary bee.

If you add to the fact of its size, that it also has buzz that is quite loud, you can understand why it appears to be a scary insect.

However, from observing and photographing this bee, I have found it to be a very docile bee and not at all aggressive.


A Solitary Bee

Normally bees tend to live in hives or nests where they flourish and thrive because they belong to a social structure where jobs are shared out and each member has its own tasks assigned to it from birth.

Each member of the hive knows its role and the perform it to the benefit of the community.

The Carpenter however does not live in such a community, it is a solitary bee and the male and female each has its own role to play.

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It is the females job to lay the eggs and take care of them while the male’s job is to guard and protect the nest.

It is the female that bores the holes in wood to build the nest.

She hollows out a tunnel and constructs a cell into which she will deposit an egg and food.

When the female has deposited both she seals up that cell and the egg is then left to develop on its own.

When the egg reaches the larval stage it eats the food that the mother had deposited in the cell for them before she sealed the cell.

Carpenters do not eat wood, they eat the pollen and nectar that they collect from the flowers.

When running out of room in a nest, Carpenters prefer when possible to extend their existing nest rather than constructing a new one from scratch.

Carpenters are great pollinators and as such they are a great asset to any garden.

If you get near the nest of a Carpenter you will soon notice that they are territorial because the male carpenter will dive bomb and buzz you when you are too close to its nest.

Even though the bee appears threatening, do not worry because it will not sting.

How do I know it won't sting, it is easy I know because because it does not have a stinger to sting you with.

I find this strange that the male does not have a stinger because it is his job to guard and protect the nest.

However, be aware that although the male does not have a stinger, the female does, but she will only use it if she feels threatened by you.

Although it is a solitary bee in some species of carpenter bee the females will live together with their female relatives forming a small social group.


The Life Cycle of the Carpenter

The carpenter undergoes complete metamorphosis

  • Egg
  • Larva
  • Pupa
  • Adult

It is at the larval stage that the insect eats and grows to a huge size, ( see the video below)

At the pupa stage, hormonal controlled changes occur and the adult structure begins to form.

Carpenters hibernate over winter and emerge in the spring to mate.

Unfortunately for the male they do not seem to live very long after they have mated.

I wonder if the male remains celibate it will live longer?

The female will store the sperm from the male until she is ready to lay her eggs.

Why is it called a Carpenter bee?

The carpenter bee gets its name from the fact that it makes its nest in wood.

The female bores into a suitable piece of wood by using her mandibles (a part of her mouth) in order to chew through wood.

It is this practice of building its nests inside a piece of wood that this bee gets its name.


A Must See Video

I came across this video of a Carpenter Bee’s nest, this video is of the Eastern Carpenter bee but it looks very similar to the Carpenter bee that is the subject of this hub.

You can see the nest in this video and the live larvae and the nests construction it is fascinating video.

The man in the video seems quite knowledgeable and it is an excellent way for you to get to see what the nest of a Carpenter bee looks like.

Watching this video was the first time that I had been able to see the inside of a nest and I was surprised at the size of the larvae.

A Must see video


Are they a pest?

Some consider it a pest because of the way they bore in to wood in order to build their nests.

However, they normally build in old and decaying wood and generally they will not touch painted or treated wood.

The holes they make normally do not create a large amount of damage. but they are noisy little critters.

Their loud buzzing can be a bit of a nuisance if they have built the nest too close to your house or deck.

Having the bees buzzing in and out of a nest when it is built in a wrong location may be seen as a problem and can cause people to think of them as a pest.

Carpenters can also leave pollen stains near the nest.

In spite of all these potential problems, for me the benefits of having carpenter bees around far outweigh the minor problems they can sometimes cause.

Most of the problems concerning the damage of your wooden structures can be overcome.

If you treat or paint any wooden structures that you don’t want them to bore into the carpenters will leave them alone.

The benefits of treating or painting your wooden structures are twofold,

  1. This will save the wood becoming damage by the carpenters
  2. It will prolong the life of your wooden structures

This is a win, win situation in my book, so in my opinion the Carpenter Bees are not a pest they are an asset.

Thank you for visiting this hub.

I hope that you have enjoyed this little peek into the life of the Carpenter bee and enjoyed seeing my photographs of this impressive looking bee.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on June 19, 2017:

Thank you oi for your comment, I love comments like yours that tell me something new that I didn't know, and it improves the Hub to have this kind of extra information in the comments.

io on April 09, 2016:

Sorry for the double post. I'm from Rome, we have plenty of xylocopa violaceas and they're bigger in warmer places. The female will sting if trapped in clothes or left without escape. They're not aggressive at all, but if they sting, it will be very painful, because their stinger is huge. On the other hand, their poison is not toxic at all (6 times less than the common honeybee), so thereìll be no swelling or allergic reactions.

io on April 09, 2016:

guys they sting

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on April 23, 2015:

Thank you poetryman, I was in my sixties the first time I saw one and I wondered what the heck it was. At first I thought that it was some sort of large beetle, because it was so big. It is much larger than even the bumblebees.

poetryman6969 on February 24, 2015:

I have never seen a bee like this one. The flowers are beautiful.

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on October 12, 2012:

Thank you so much WhiteOak for your comments you have made my day :D

I am so pleased that you like the photos. I am sorry it has taken me so long to acknowledge your comment I have been busy elsewhere :(

Eva Thomas from Georgia on October 01, 2012:

I beg to differ, you made the comment that this bee was hard to photograph? You my friend have a beautiful collection of photos to go with this bee. You did a great job! One of my favorites is the photo where you can see a little of the pollen clinging to the hair of the bees body. Fantastic capture!

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 25, 2012:

Thank you caitmo1 for your lovely comments I really appreciate them I am glad that you like the photos

caitmo1 from Lancashire England on September 24, 2012:

This is a brilliant article and the photos are superb.

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 20, 2012:

Hi drbj, I have just been and read your poem and I agree with your and the poem I rather see than bee one too lol....

drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 19, 2012:

I have never seen a purple/violet carpenter bee, maggs, but I can tell you right now, that like the poem about the purple cow, I would rather see than be one.

BTW, beautiful photos.

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 19, 2012:

Hi Nettlemere, I hope you get to see one they are a really impressive looking bee.

Thanks again for commenting :D

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 19, 2012:

Hi rgmg, before I wrote about the carpenter bee I didn't know about the honey either it is amazing what you learn in the process of writing a hub.

Before this hub, I thought all bees lived in hives and that they all made honeycombs in the hive.

So like you after this hub I now know more too lol...

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on September 19, 2012:

Maggs I'm really excited to hear about that sighting in the UK. Thank you for mentioning it. Perhaps I will get to see one here next year.

rgmg50 on September 19, 2012:

Thanks, after your explanation it is obvious that there's no honey. Shows you how little I knew about bees. But after this hub I know more!

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 18, 2012:

Hi rgmg, I think that it would be difficult to find out what the honey tastes like as their nests are only small and I think they consume most of what they gather. If you have a look at the video you will get some idea of what the inside of a nest looks like.

Apart from the fact there is no space to store honey there is nothing in the nest that resemble anything like the honey pots in a bumblebee nest or a honeycomb in a honey bee's hive so collecting it would be a real problem.

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and I am so pleased that you found it interesting :D

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 18, 2012:

MHatter I think that lots of countries are having problems with declining bee populations, thank you for commenting I am pleased that you enjoyed it :D

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 18, 2012:

Thank you Faith Reaper I am so happy that you enjoyed the photographs, thank you for voting this hub up Maggie :D

rgmg50 on September 18, 2012:

What an interesting hub. I know very little about bees, except that they are fascinating and necessary for our survival. I love the name of the bee, Carpenter Bee. What would this bee's honey taste like?

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on September 17, 2012:

Thank you for sharing. Good job on this. You heard of America's bee problem.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on September 17, 2012:

Amazing, a bee with no stinger, now that's my kind of bee! Your photography, dear one, is stunningly beautiful. This is such an interesting piece. Voted Up In His Love, Faith Reaper

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 17, 2012:

Thanks Eddy :D

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 17, 2012:

Hi Nettlemere, A violet carpenter bee has been spotted in a garden near Tenbury Wells, which is about 140 miles from you and the search is on for more populations.

So who knows you might get to spot one yet in your garden, thanks for commenting I really appreciate it :D maggs

Eiddwen from Wales on September 17, 2012:

A brilliant hub maggs ;thanks for sharing and here's to many many more to come.


Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on September 17, 2012:

What a stunning bee and the most unbeelike bee I've come across, I'd love to see them and would definitely welcome them into my garden if only they were native to the UK. Well done for getting such good shots of them.

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