The name carpenter bee applies to several species of bees in the United States that excavate tunnels in sound wood. The only species of economic importance found in Missouri is Xylocopa virginica (L.), a large species also known from Florida north to Connecticut, and west to Illinois, Kansas and Texas. They are similar in size and appearance to bumble bees (Bombus spp.), but with the top surface of the abdomen being black, almost entirely hairless, and shiny (Figure 1). Males have a white face, whereas the female's face is black. Carpenter bees are often seen hovering near decks, eaves and gables of homes. Homeowners may become alarmed by this activity because male carpenter bees patrol these areas and will fly near people. They defend territories and may be aggressive, but they are unable to sting, so their aggression is just a show. Female carpenter bees do not actively defend nesting sites and are usually not aggressive, but females can sting if they are handled.
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