female; lateral view

Scientific Name: Xylocopa sonorina Smith, 1874

Common Name: Hawaiian Carpenter Bee


Xylocopa sonorina Smith, 1874: 278 [♀]

     Holotype ♀. USA, Hawaii, Sandw[ich]. Isl[and].” (not Sunda Isl.; see Lieftinck 1956) [BMNH] [presented by E.W.H. Holdsworth Esq to the British Museum under register 1864.8 as per Lieftinck (1956)].

Xylocopa varipuncta Patton, 1879: 60 [♀] [synonymy by Sheffield et al. 2020: 4]

     Syntypes ♀. USA, Arizona, by C.V. Riley [USNM].


Species Notes

The â™‚ was keyed by Hurd (1955) as Xylocopa brasilianorum (Linnaeus), following the taxonomy of Ackerman (1916), though he did not distinguish between males of subspecies brasilianorum and varipunctata, claiming that they were known from only a few specimens; the male was unknown at the time of Ackerman (1916). He also did not indicate a range for varipunctata extending further north than northern California, though Hurd identified the specimen from British Columbia in 1954. Hurd and Moure (1963) recognized X. varipuncta as a valid species based on male genitalia.

Timberlake (1922) felt that specimens of Xylocopa from the Hawaiian Islands were the same as X. varipuncta from the USA, an opinion that T.D.A. Cockerell shared (as per Timberlake 1922), and later Williams (1926) and Nishida (1958). Hurd (1978: 75), calling the Hawaiin material X. sonorina Smith (a species described from the Sundra Islands) was not convinced of this, and other authors have subsequenctly applied X. sonorina to specimens from Hawaii (Gerling 1982). However, Hurd and Moure (1963: 150) did consider that X. sororina was an established species in the Hawaiian and Marianas islands (presumably from the Sundra Islands or other parts of the Indonesian Archipelago), supporting Timberlake (1922) who suggested the possibility that this species was introduced to Hawaii. This was a possibility that was also considered by Snelling (2003).



Janzen (1964) reported on the nests of X. varipuncta in a driftwood log on a beach in Mexico, though indicates that the nest was likely made after the log washed ashore. However, such a log being washed back out and moving in ocean currents would allow this species to move and establish elsewhere, and may explain the one Canadian record from British Columbia, Canada, and those elsewhere. It is unfortunate that Leys et al. (2000, 2002) did not have material of X. sonorina for comparison to X. varipuncta in their molecular phylognetic studies.

The nesting biology was described by Williams (1927) and Gerling (1982) [material from Hawaii]. Marshall and Alcock (1981) studied the mating system. Heinrich and Buchmann (1986) studied aspects of thermoregulation.


Distribution in Canada

This species was likely accidentally introduced into Canada (Sheffield et al. 2020), and is only known from the single female specimen from Vancouver, British Columbia.



Ackerman AJ (1916) The carpenter-bees of the United States of the genus Xylocopa. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 24: 196-232. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25003718

Gerling D (1982) Nesting biology and flower relationships of Xylocopa sonorina Smith in Hawaii (Hymenoptera: Anthophoridae). The Pan-Pacific Entomologist 58(4): 336-351.

Hurd PD (1955) The carpenter bees of California. Bulletin of the California Insect Survey 4: 35‑72.

Hurd PD, Moure JS (1963) A classification of the large carpenter bees (Xylocopini) (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). University of California Publications in Entomology 29: 1‑365.

Janzen DH (1964) Xylocopa (Neoxylocopa) varipuncta nesting in driftwood in Mexico. The Pan-Pacific Entomologist 40(1): 65-66.

Nishida T (1958) Pollination of the passion fruit in Hawaii. Journal of Economic Entomology 51(2): 146-149. https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/51.2.146

Patton WH (1879) Notes on three species Xylocopa. The Canadian Entomologist 11(3): 60. https://doi.org/10.4039/Ent1160-3

Sheffield C, Heron J, Musetti L (2020) Xylocopa sonorina Smith, 1874 from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Hymenoptera: Apidae, Xylocopinae) with comments on its taxonomy. Biodiversity Data Journal 8: e49918. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.8.e49918

Smith F (1874) X. Monograph of the genus Xylocopa Latr. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 21(2): 181-206.

Snelling RR (2003) Bees of the Hawaiian Islands, exclusive of Hylaeus (Nesoprosopis) (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 76(3): 342-356. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25086121

Timberlake PH (1922) Identify of the Hawaiian carpenter bee of the genus Xylocopa (Hymenoptera). Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society 5: 51.

Williams FX (1927) Notes on the habits of the bees and wasps of the Hawaiian Islands. Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society 6 (3): 425‑464.

Sociality: Variable
Nesting: Carpenter
Pollen Specialization: Polylectic
Wintering Stage: Adult

Crop Preference: Not Available
Non Crop Preference: Not Available

Distribution: British Columbia
Ecozone: Pacific Maritime

Distribution Map