Xylocopa bombylans Click to enlarge image
Peacock Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa bombylans Image: Andrew Donnelly
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    bombylans
    Genus
    Xylocopa
    Subfamily
    Xylocopinae
    Family
    Apidae
    Super Family
    Apoidea
    Suborder
    Apocrita
    Order
    Hymenoptera
    Class
    Insecta
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    1.6 cm - 1.8 cm

Carpenter bees are some of the largest and most spectacular of the native Australian bees. Their name comes from their habit of nesting in soft wood, like dead banksia trees, in which they cut entrance holes with their strong jaws.

Identification

The Peacock Carpenter Bee has bright metallic colours that change with the direction of reflected light. Sometimes they look purple then, moments later, a yellowy green. They are easy to notice, even before seeing them, as they emit a deep droning noise when flying between flowers.

Habitat

The Peacock Carpenter Bee lives in urban areas, forests and woodlands, and heath.

Distribution

The Peacock Carpenter Bee is found in eastern Australia north of Sydney.

Feeding and diet

The Peacock Carpenter Bee feeds on nectar and pollen.

Life history cycle

The nest of the Peacock Carpenter Bee is usually a single tunnel about 30 cm long with interconnecting passages when the wood is wide enough. The tunnels are sectioned off into brood cells, which are sealed after an egg is laid inside with a supply of nectar and pollen rolled up into a moist ball. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the food balls and pupate.

Often the young bee in the bottom cell of the nest emerges from its pupa first as it was the first egg laid. It chews its way through the walls of the other cells to break free of the nest. The other pupae usually fall through the holes and gather in the bottom cell. They hatch normally and climb their way out of the nest.

Female carpenter bees sometimes cooperate during brood rearing, taking it in turns to guard the nest entrance while the main egg-laying bee goes out foraging for nectar and pollen to feed the larvae.