There are large, virtually all black bees which visit flowering plants and shrubs throughout the spring and summer, their scientific name is Xylocopa violacea. The later part of this name derives from the beautiful purple / blue sheen seen on the wings as they catch the sunlight. These black bees are common in central and southern Europe.
Do not be alarmed by their size of up to 23mm, they are not aggressive and will simply go about their business of collecting nectar from flowers, chooseing to fly away from people. The male does not have the ability to sting. The males will chase other males in competition as well as females that they wish to mate. At this time they can be noisy, crashing into walls, windows etc. If caught and handled the female may sting as a means of self defence.
The name carpenter bee is due to their using dead wood to breed in. The female uses her mandibles to chew into the wood, creating tunnels into which she will lay up to 15 eggs. The small bits of wood that break away, will either be discarded or used to separate the egg cells. They are just as content to place their eggs in an existing tunnel such as a bamboo tube. Each egg will be provided with pollen on which to eat when it hatches.
These bees are very efficient pollinators of open flowers but can also use their size and weight to break into long tubular flowers from above and steal the nectar without collecting and distributing any pollen.
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