top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

Nature in France: what are those shiny blue bumble bees?

Have you spotted a huge blue bee buzzing around your garden? We explain what they are what they do.


We have seen lots of what look like shiny bumble bees with blue wings in our acanthus flowers. Are they a new invasive species and are they dangerous?


They sound like a bee called a carpenter bee, unsurprisingly also known as blue bees. In French, they have various names including abeille charpentière, abeille perce-bois, Bourdon noir or Bourdon bleu. The latin name is Xylocopa, and they are common to France and southern Europe. They are similar in size to bumble bees, but very different, living solitary lives and not in colonies.

Read more: French honey production 'exceptional' in 2020 so far

As their name suggests, they chew out holes in dead or soft wood and live in them, raising their young. The females do have a sting but very rarely sting humans, and when they do it is usually because they are being crushed. Carpenter bees sometimes chew holes in young trees, particularly apple trees, leaving sawdust at the base of the trunk. The damage looks terrible but the trees do not seem to suffer and after a few years the hole has usually recovered.

Read more: our pick of top 3 Jardins Ouverts 2020

Blue bees are often among the first insects to make use of the “insect hotels” some people put up in their gardens, and this might be why more of them are being seen now. While picking acanthus flowers – to make pot-pourri, for example – be careful to check that there are no blue bees sleeping in the middle of a flower, as they sometimes do.

Read more: 10 wildlife excursions to try in France

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now