Carpenter bees are large, sturdy, shiny, black colored bees, some species having yellow markings on the head. Carpenter bees may be mistaken for bumble bees.
The marginal cell in the front wing is thin and stretched and the apex bends away from the costa. The front wing has small stigma. The bee’s labrum is concealed by the short mandibles when closed. The clypeus is flat. The thoracic menanotum is presented upright and is part of the rear surface and is almost perpendicular to the dorsal surface. The basitarsi are of the same length as the associated tibiae, and the hind pair of basitarsi are hirsute.
Carpenter bees make nests by tunneling into wood, vibrating their bodies as they rasp their mandibles against the wood, each nest having a single entrance which may have many adjacent tunnels. The entrance is often a perfectly circular hole measuring about 16 mm (0.63 in) on the underside of a beam, bench, or tree limb. Carpenter bees do not eat wood. They discard the bits of wood, or reuse particles to build partitions between cells. The tunnel functions as a nursery for brood and storage for the pollen/nectar upon which the brood subsists. The provision masses of some species are among the most complex in shape of any group of bees; whereas most bees fill their brood cells with a soupy mass, and others form simple spheroidal pollen masses, Xylocopa species form elongated and carefully sculpted masses that have several projections which keep the bulk of the mass from coming into contact with the cell walls, sometimes resembling an irregular caltrop. The eggs are very large relative to the size of the female, and are some of the largest eggs among all insects.