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Carder bee - Anthidium oblongatum - (c) Copyright 2016 Sharp-Eatman Photo


Genus Anthidium

European Woolcarder Bee

Anthidium manicatum

(Subgenus Anthidium)
2/5" - 4/5" (medium-sized to large)

European Woolcarder bees build solitary nests in pre-existing cavities such as cracks in buildings and holes bored in wooden structures. Females line their nests with plant hairs "carded" or scraped from garden plants such as lamb's ears, mullein and globe thistles.  They provision their nests with pollen and nectar collected from plants in the mint family.

Males of this species are territorial and can be spied fighting off larger pollinators such as bumble bees and carpenter bees.  Male woolcarder bees have a habit of hovering over flowers in midflight.  They tend to patrol a small patch of garden or a single flowering plant, policing it for the presence of other bees. When an intruder bee enters a carder bee's territory to feed on a flower, the woolcarder bee will ram the intruder like a miniature rhinoceros to knock it off the flower. 

European woolcarder bees forage on a fairly wide variety of plants:  they are common visitors of mullein, mints, butterfly bush, goldenrod, viper's bugloss and the flowers of melons and squash.  They are useful pollinators of peas and beans and of commercially grown flowers such as snapdragons.


Anthidium manicatum appear in mid-summer at Stone Barns, circulating around salvias, mountain mint, yarrow and lavender.  These bees also appear at Rockefeller State Park Preserve in early summer, feeding on mountain mint. 


Although they gather pollen in part from native plants, European woolcarder bees are not native to the United States. They are native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, and arrived in New York from Europe in 1963. They have since spread through the United States and are currently found as far south in the Americas as Brazil and Argentina.  Anthidium manicatum nonetheless are not currently considered a significant threat to honey bees or other pollinators, and they do not transmit agents that lead to colony collapse disorder.


Identification information:  European woolcarder bees have wide bodies, and are black with vivid yellow markings.  Both males and females have yellow facial masks and yellow mandibles.  Their thoraxes are black with yellow markings.  On females, the legs are mostly black and covered with wooly white hairs.  On males, the legs are mostly yellow.

The abdomens of European woolcarder bees have symmetrical yellow spots on the lateral edges -- these are widely spaced on the first three segments; on the remaining segments, the spots are more closely apced or may be absent.  On males, the rearmost segment of the abdomen (T7) is black.  The spot-like (rather than band-like) markings distinguish them from the Anthidium obligatum woolcarder bee shown below.  Adult male Anthidium manicatum are hefty and about an inch long.  Nevertheless, these bees range in size and females can be much smaller than males -- under half an inch.

Anthidium manicatum

All photos (c) 2014 - 2016 Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography

Oblong Woolcarder Bee

Anthidium oblongatum

(Subgenus Proanthidium)
1/4 - 2/5"  (medium-sized)

There are two species of non-native woolcarder bees found in our area -- the European woolcarder bee shown above, and a smaller carder bee known as Anthidium oblongatum.  The bees are similar in general form and appearance, but the oblong woolcarder bee occupies a separate subgenus (Proanthidium) and has somewhat different coloration.  


This is a very pretty bee, with reddish-orange legs, striking green eyes and brilliant yellow coloring.  Instead of having yellow spots on its abdomen like the European woolcarder bee, Anthidium oblongatum has broken yellow stripes banding  its abdominal segments, as shown here.  Its antennae are black and its wings a transparent brown.  Females have pale scopal hairs on the sternum (underside of the abdomen).  The oblong woolcarder bees shown here are between 1/4" and 1/3" long.


Sedum is the preferred host plant for Anthidium oblongatum, but these woolcarder bees have been documented foraging on other plants, including stonecrop, white clover, vetch, mountain mint and members of the squash family.  The bees are known to collect "wool" or hairs from plants such as dusty miller.  The bees shown here were feeding in mid-summer on mountain mint in Rockefeller State Park Preserve and on a small-flowered variety of Helianthus in the gardens of Stone Barns.


Like the European Woolcarder bee, Anthidium oblongatum is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa.  Native North American Anthidium of other species are found in the western, southern and midwestern United States, but not in New York State.

Anthidium obligatum

An oblong woolcarder bee patrolling its territory

All photos (c) 2014 - 2016 Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography

PHOTO CREDITS:  All photos and text © Copyright 2014-2015 Paula Sharp and Ross Eatman, unless otherwise noted.  All rights reserved. If you wish to use any of the photographs here for educational or other purposes, please read permissions page.


REFERENCES:  For a comprehensive list of references used in compiling this guide, click here:

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