What kind of shiny blue bumblebees are they?


We have seen many in our acanthus flowers that look like shiny bumblebees with blue wings. Are they a new invasive species and are they dangerous?


They sound like a bee called a carpenter bee, which, unsurprisingly, is also known as blue bees. They have different names in French, including abeille charpentière, abeille perce-bois, Bourdon noir or Bourdon bleu. The Latin name is Xylocopa, and they are common in France and southern Europe. They are similar in size to bumblebees, but very different, they live as solitary animals and not in colonies.

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As the name suggests, they chew holes in dead or soft wood and live in them and raise their young. The females have a sting, but very rarely do humans sting, and when they do it is usually because they are being crushed. Carpenter bees sometimes chew holes in young trees, especially apple trees, and leave sawdust at the base of the trunk. The damage looks terrible, but the trees don’t seem to be suffering and after a few years the hole has usually recovered.

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Blue bees are often among the first to take advantage of the “insect hotels” that some people have set up in their gardens, and as a result, they may be seen more now. When picking acanthus flowers – for making potpourri, for example – make sure that no blue bees sleep in the middle of a flower, as they sometimes do.

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