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California Carpenter Bees

California seems to be the state that has it all – beautiful coastlines, mountains, Hollywood, and…a variety of carpenter bees!

While the most common species of carpenter bee in the U.S. is the Virginica, if you live in California and are looking up pictures of carpenter bees you may be thinking you’ve got the wrong pest. However, there are four different subgenera of carpenter bees in California alone. And not one of them resembles the typical carpenter bee on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

  • The Californica: This species of carpenter bees has 3 different subgenera:
  • Californica Arizonensis
  • Californica Californica (clever hey?)
  • Californica Diamesa

The Californica: This species of carpenter bees has 3 different subgenera:

The Californica species is more metallic in appearance than the Virginica. These California bees are typically all black with a bluish-green shine. The males stand out from the females with by the lighter markings on their back abdomen. You won’t see the yellows of the Virginica like the image below, which might be where some of the confusion lies.

Californica Species - photo credit: Clint Gardner &

Virginica Species - photo credit: Desiree Narango &

The Californica species are also located solely in the southwestern United States – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern California, Nevada and Utah. These bees typically make their nests in the sound dry softwoods. All three of these X. Californica species are polylectic meaning they will visit a wide variety of natural flora.

The Varipuncta:

The Varipuncta is one of the few species of carpenter bee found from western New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California. It is sometimes referred to as the Valley Carpenter Bee. The most striking physical difference of this particular species is the coloration of the male. The males are actually a golden brown color and very fuzzy. They even have green eyes. The Females are the standard metallic black. So if you are scratching your head wondering what the heck these flying pests are, they are indeed carpenter bees.

Male Varipuncta Carpenter Bee - photo credit: Valtierra &

Female Varipuncta Carpenter Bee - photo credit: Scott &

A distinguishing trait of the Varipuncta is their ability to thermoregulate. This amazing ability allows them to fly at very high temperatures without overheating and at low temperatures without freezing. They modify their foraging patterns by flying between different altitudes depending upon the temperature. Because of this unique characteristic, they can thrive in very different environments.

Many different tree types are appealing to the Varipuncta for its nesting purposes. They do have a preference towards rotting or decaying wood and structural timbers which is not common to the other United States species. A few of their favorite trees are:

  • Alder
  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Balsa
  • Chinese paper plant
  • Oak
  • Organ pipe cactus
  • Eucalyptus
  • Walnut
  • Pepper tree are a few of their natural choices.

No matter what color, texture, and subgenera your carpenter bees are, we’ve got you covered with any of our carpenter bee traps. If you're looking for a home for the bees rather than a trap, check out our carpenter bee houses.

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