The European wool carder bee is not the terrorist that some folks think it is.

The pollinator doesn’t cause colony collapse disorder (CCD). It’s not a newcomer to California. It doesn’t have five stingers. And it doesn’t target honey bees leaving behind a “blood-soaked battlefield.”

Entomologists at the University of California, Davis, are fielding a flurry of phone calls and emails as a result of a Sacramento-based news story gone viral. A Sacramento resident told an area TV station Jan. 24 that he discovered the first-ever European wool carder bee in California on May 23, 2009 and that it targets honey bees: it “cuts off their wings, cuts off their antenna, cuts off their heads, cuts off their torsi (tarsi) and stabs them to death.”

It’s a pollinator and it does what pollinators do, say UC Davis entomologists.

“The species (Anthidium manicatum) was first collected in Sunnyvale, Calif. in 2007 and it was well established in the Central Valley by 2008,” said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology (home of more than seven million insect specimens, including wool carder bees) and professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department Entomology.

“Males are territorial and very aggressive, attacking any insect that enters its territory that isn't a wool-carder female,” Kimsey said. “The males establish territories around flowering plants, so they will attack honey bees and any other bees coming to visit the flowers.”

Neither gender has five stingers; the male has five spikelike projections on its abdomen that it uses to defend its territory.

“The number of honey bees that wool carder bees kills is probably no different than those honey bees lost to praying mantids, phorid flies and spiders,” said honey bee expert Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.

Both the honey bee and the wool carder bee are exotic to North America. “Both species are native to southern Europe where they have interacted for thousands of years or longer,” Kimsey said.

So, she said, this is not a case of an invasive bee attacking and killing a native bee. Both are non-natives. European colonists brought the honey bee to what is now Virginia in 1622. The wool carder bee was accidentally “introduced into New York state, presumably from Europe, before 1963,” according to research entomologist Tom Zavortink of the Bohart Museum. It was not purposefully introduced to pollinate alfalfa, as some reports allege.

Writing in a 2008 edition of the Pan-Pacific Entomologist, Zavortink and fellow entomologist Sandra Shanks now of Port Townsend, Wash., pointed out that several papers “have documented its spread from neighboring areas in the northeastern United States and southern Canada” and that the species has since crossed the country. It was confirmed in Colorado in 2005, Missouri in 2006, and Maine, Michigan, Maryland and California (Sunnyvale) in 2007, the entomologists wrote.

“The first specimen of Anthidium manicatum that Sandy and I saw was collected in Davis on July 26, 2007,” Zavortink said.

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, said a colleague collected wool carder bee specimens in Boise, Idaho, in June 2002.

“The bee was already present in Sacramento at least as early as 2007,” Thorp said. “I identified the bee from collections made by Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley, during his urban garden studies there.”