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Identify this big bee - is it a drone?

UPDATE: uploaded picture, hopefully everyone can see it now? Bee’s thorax was quite fuzzy, abdomen shiny black with no fuzz. This big bee came and went several times (or maybe it was more than 1?).

I’m new to beekeeping and this forum and have a traditional hive. Today I saw this HUGE bee going into the hive with lots of pollen and the other bees seemed totally fine with it. Is this a particularly large drone? Thank you for your assistance.



Welcome to the Flow forum!

Unfortunately your photo did not post. Might I suggest that you use a desktop or laptop computer, and when you open the window to make a post, look for the 7th icon from the left at the top of the message typing window. It looks like a horizontal bar with an arrow pointing up out of it. This is the upload tool. Click on that, and use the drop down menu to find your photo. Wait for it to finish uploading, and you should be done! :blush:

Drones don’t carry pollen, so that is puzzling. However, at this time of year, queen bumblebees are looking for places to nest overwinter. It is possible that you saw a bumble. The hive will not tolerate her long term, but as she was carrying food, they may have let her in at this point. :wink:

That’s to big to be a bee and the all black body is not a characteristic of a bee.

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Drones just eat and mate

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Thank you!! Photo properly uploaded now


Nicely done, thank you for your effort. :wink: It doesn’t look like a bumble, but I still think it could be. My reasons are as follows:

  1. Like honey bees, the normal yellow and white colour stripes are carried by hairs on the bee’s body. If the bee gets into a fight (e.g. looking for a new home against resistance), the defenders often pull the hairs off and the bee looks black. Here is an article describing what happens when a bumble loses that fight inside a honey bee hive:
  2. It is big and the thorax is hairy. Together with carrying pollen in its corbiculae (pollen baskets), it is most likely a bee
  3. Looks a bit large to be a cuckoo bee, and most cuckoo bees do not carry pollen, but they are accepted by honey bee hives

If I had to bet, I would still say bumble, but I may be very wrong. Vancouver has a wonderful University. How about seeing whether they have a Department of Entomology? Knowing how nice (and curious) Canadian people are, I bet they would give you a free opinion based on your photo. :blush:

Edit: A bit of sleuthing turned up this link:
I think a local would also have the best knowledge of which insects are around in your area. :thinking:

Please let us know if you find out. Thank you! :nerd_face:


An excellent photo of the bee in flight. I think you used a zoom lens or telephoto lens so it looks much bigger compared to the other bees than it really is.
You can cross it off being a drone off your list of possibles as it is carrying pollen so obviously been foraging, which drones don’t do.

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Certainly not a drone @BarbVancouver - my money’s on carpenter bee…


Welcome to the forum Max, lots of keen bee keepers here happy to pass on advice and tips for the asking and lots of reading too.
You are right about it not being a drone as carrying pollen is a giveaway crossing off that idea.

I have nucs packed with bees with a 1" opening in the bottom and top: They are fine in the 90+ NJ heat and humidity.

It went into the hive with that nice load of pollen? Have those bees found a friendly giant to help them out?


The old saying ‘never mock a gift horse’ comes to mind Jack, bet she would get shown the door without the pollen though. An excellent photo that says so much.

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Having looked at online photos, I think @Freebee2 has it right! The only thing not consistent is the corbicula in the photo. Carpenter bees have hairy hind legs and the corbicula is usually covered.

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“Carpenter bees have hairy hind legs and the corbicula is usually covered”

I thought the hind legs looked kinda hairy… but you are right, the corbicula - or pollen basket - is completely open! (I had to Google corbicula - thanks for the cool new word @Dawn_SD :sunglasses:) So… is the open corbicula enough to rule out Carpenter Bee? And if so, any further thoughts?

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I am only a very amateur hobbyist entomologist, so I have no idea. I did spend a good hour looking for photos of carpenter bees which might show corbiculae (the plural), but I didn’t find any. At this point, I would hand over to the experts in Vancouver! :blush:

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Carpenter bees are big and smooth like this photo.

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