Carpenter bees: float like a butterfly and don’t sting


Xylocopa dejeanii: This species is one of two common in Hong Kong

Nicola Newbery admits to being in love — with carpenter bees. The Hoi Ha resident says, “I love them so much I’ve stuck long pieces of bamboo in my garden hoping the bees will take up residence.” She tries to create a “wildlife garden”, attracting caterpillas and butterflies as well.


The carpenter bee species is known as xylocopa after the ancient Greek for wood-cutter. If you see a round hole in dead wood, especially bamboo, it is probably the home of a carpenter bee. 


They are big, often solitary and commonly mistaken for bumblebees. If you want to attract them into your garden, plant pentas and petreas (sandpaper vines). This species of bee buzzes noisily and frightens some people. But they never attack and are harmless. Only the females sting if you touch them or their homes and the pain is mild.

In some sup-species, males and females look quite different:  the girls are mainly black and the boys hairier with yellow patches. In other sub-species, males are all black like females but have a yellow patch on the face. In still more sub-species, there is no difference in colour and you can only tell the sexes by features such as genitalia.


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