'Teddy Bear' Bees

Mar 13, 2014

Along about this time of year, the calls come pouring into the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the Bohart Museum of Entomology.

  • "I just saw a golden bumble bee. I think it's a new species! Can I name it?"
  • "I just saw a huge bee and it's gold in color and all fluffy with green eyes!"
  • "I just saw a huge bumble bee flying around in our backyard.  It's yellow and I think it's a pest."


It's the male Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, which native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of California, Davis, calls "the teddy bear" bee.

Like all male bees, it doesn't sting.

But what's unusual about this bee is its color, golden with green eyes. It's sexual dimorphism at its best, because the female Valley carpenter bees are solid black. 

The Valley carpenter bee is the biggest carpenter bee in California. And it scares the living beejeez (dead beejeez, too) out of young children, teenagers, and adults. Just about everybody and everything, including the family dog and cat.

As Thorp told us several years ago for a news story:

"Xylocopa varipuncta occurs in the Central Valley and southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and southward through Mexico.  It is large (about the size of a queen bumble bee), with all black females and golden/buff-colored males with green eyes.   Females have dark wings with violet reflections."

Some folks think it's a pest. It's not. It's a pollinator. Let it "bee."