bumble bee???

Asked March 10, 2014, 3:51 PM EDT

I found a very odd bee(?) flying around our persimmon tree. It is about one and a quarter inches, has a round body, is a bright rust color all over, and has large yellow eyes. It is larger than any bumble bee I have seen before. I tried to get a picture, but it chased me off. Anyone have an idea what this thing could be? (also, it is covered in hair)

Santa Clara County California

1 Response

Although I did not have an opportunity to review a photo, if you sent one, I would guess from your description that you saw the male of the Valley Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa brasilianorum varipuncta Patton - (assuming that you observed the insect in California, Arizona, or Baja California). Both the male and female bees are shaped like large bumble bees with dusky wings. The female is a solid, metallic-reflections black color with little hair on the top of the abdomen. The male also is quite large and is covered with buff hair over the whole body. Male carpenter bees have a tendency to be territorial, and they will "buzz" any intruder that they find in their space. Being male, they are harmless. The females have a painful sting and a very strong bite, since they bore tunnels in wood to make their dwellings.