On Sep 19, 2007, philomel from Castelnau RB Pyrenées France (Zone 8a) wrote:
This is a very handsome, dark violet coloured bee. It nests in old wood (hence the name, carpenter). It is native to south and central europe, occasionally venturing further north. Adults hibernate over winter and emerge in the spring (covering my wisteria flowers). They fly throughout summer and autumn. Despite being very large (the largest bee I've ever seen in europe), and having a fast, direct flight, they are not aggressive and rarely sting.
There large size and large buzzing noise may seem fearsome, but they are one of the more docile bees and do an excellent job of pollination. I keep old soft wood near my fruit trees to encourage them to stick around. So far this has been working. I think with them doing all the pollination, there is less reason for other bees to hang around.
The females are black and the males are a pretty tan color.