Yellow carpenter bee - Xylocopa Pubescans

Yellow carpenter bee – Xylocopa Pubescens

The yellow carpenter bee – Xylocopa Pubescens is typically found in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin, North Africa, and the Middle East, ranging from Cape Verde to South Asia. However, it has recently expanded its distribution to the Canary islands and mainland Spain. This species prefers relatively warm areas with a minimum temperature of 18 °C (64 °F) for foraging, so it is expected to be restricted to coastal and low altitude areas of Iberia.

One notable feature of Xylocopa pubescens is its strong sexual dimorphism. Females are black with bright yellow fur on their thorax, which is large and shiny black. On the other hand, males are smaller and distinguished by a narrow head and yellow pubescence that covers their entire bodies.

(Top image – Female Xylocopa pubescens – Author: Jan Richtr – https://www.biolib.cz/en/taxonimage/id109367/?taxonid=399701&type=1)

A common area of study in Xylocopa pubescens is its dominance hierarchy and guarding behavior. Colonies begin and end with female takeover, either by daughters of the dominant female or by foreign intruders. In a colony, there is only one reproductively active female at a time who suppresses the reproduction of other females in the nest. Males hold individual territories which females enter to mate, and they respond aggressively to intruders in their territory.

Video of the yellow carpenter bee – Xylocopa Pubescens

Although hard to identify at first, closer inspection of this video taken in Estepona, southern Spain in the early summer of 2023 reveals two male yellow carpenter bee – Xylocopa Pubescens sparring over territory. (Thanks J.W for the video!)


Colonies can be founded throughout the breeding season, which occurs from the beginning of March to the beginning of November, depending on ecological conditions. Each colony is founded by a solitary female, and the brood is produced continuously as long as space and resources are available. Young males and females emerge from May until the end of the breeding season in November, resulting in overlapping generations in nests starting from May. Initially, all spring nests contain only one bee (either a young female or an old female who has overwintered) until the progeny of the bee enters the pupal stage. After that, between 1–8 adult females may be present at one time, as new adults remain in the nest for up to 2 weeks.

Similar species

Not to be confused with the violet carpenter bee which is all black with irridescent violet/blue wings: https://grazalemaguide.com/blog/carpenter-bees-xylocopa-violacea-abeja-azul-de-la-madera/

Further reading

Ronda Today

Everything you need to know before you visit Ronda “The city of dreams” in Andalucia. https://www.rondatoday.com/

The Caminito del Rey

Find tickets for the Caminito del Rey: https://www.caminodelrey.es/

Wildside Holidays – Spain

Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies.

Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel

2 thoughts on “Yellow carpenter bee – Xylocopa Pubescens”

  1. Thank you, we are seeing a few of these large be like insects with a loud, flying noise yellow on their bodies. They seem harmless, but scary at first.

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