Carpenter bee France

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Carpenter bees -
Xylocopa violacea
Xylocopa valga - Abeille charpentiere.

Two species covered together as they are almost identical in both behaviour and appearance.

Also covered on this page is the Blue Carpenter Bee - Ceratina cyanea

The violet carpenter bees, Xylocopa violacea and Xylocopa valga are both types of so called solitary bees found in southern and central Europe. They are about 25 mm to 30 mm long, glossy black all over with sparse black hairs. The opaque wings are dark brown with a lilac-coloured sheen.

 Abeille-charpentiere
Photo_Carpenter_bee_France
 
 

Reproduction takes place in April / June with males and females that have over-wintered from the previous year.

They will often be seen going in and out of holes looking for suitable wood in which to make their egg chambers, in doing so they will examine anything that resembles a hole, even in concrete posts, if this happens to be in the gaps in the walls of your stone house you should not be concerned, even in your roof structure there is no problem as they do not like dry, hard, well seasoned wood.

Degraded old logs, dead trees and branches etc. are the preferred location and frequently an existing hole is used.

A single entry hole leads into multiple galleries into which the female lays her eggs, each one blocked in with a pellet of pollen which provides nutrition for the larva. As few as 3 and as many as 30 eggs may be laid in a tunnel complex.  

The adults then emerge at the end of summer and over-winter to continue the cycle. 

They are not aggressive and rarely sting.

There are no other insects in France that resemble these bees, therefore there can be no possible confusion.

Conservation advice: Leave veteran trees to stand, this is of upmost importance for so many species. Make a log pile in a corner of your garden; this can be hidden behind a bush or shrub.  Although currently not threatened in France all bees both social and solitary are important pollinators

Ceratina cyanea, the Blue Carpenter bee is very small between 5 and 9 mm for females and 5 to 7 mm in males and to the casual eye don't really look like a bee. They are a dark blue somewhat metallic colour and are frequently seen hovering around flowers in groups, sometimes in quite large numbers.   

They fly from March until October / November taking pollen and nectar from a range of flowers, in the photo they are on Clustered Bellflower and small flowered herbs are always a favourite.

 

Photo above shows Blue Carpenter Bees on Clustered Bellflower where there is a Honey bee for size comparison.

Females excavate nesting burrows in dead, dry, broken woody or herbaceous stems in which the pith has been exposed. Bramble is particularly favoured including broken and cut pieces that are on the ground. Once hollowed out the female lays her eggs providing them with regurgitated pollen and nectar. Adults of both sexes over winter also in hollowed out stems and frequently several bees will spend the winter together.

They are present in most of France and in most types of habitat.