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While hiking in some low hills near Taipei in the late afternoon in July an hour after it rained, I saw this large flying insect visiting flowers the way bees do.

I'm curious, is it a bee (if so, what kind), does it come from a hive or live on its own, and does it sting?

I'm estimating its body to be about 5 cm long. While not captured in photos, I'm pretty sure I remember it sticking its head into flowerers. It was moving flying from place to place fairly quickly and difficult to get any photos at all, this is the best I could do.

edit: Since further clarification of the size was asked for in comments, I'll add here also that the length of "about 5cm" that I mentioned wold be for nose to tail when stretched straight, (rather than in it's current somewhat curled position) and it could certainly be 4.5 cm. But I'm fairly sure it's closer to 5 cm (2 inches) than to 4 cm. I've added a few more images of the flower sans insect. I've cropped my friend on the left out of the images.

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  • $\begingroup$ Five centimeters long?? As in, would cover the palm of your hand? $\endgroup$ – Dubukay Jul 1 '18 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Dubukay I've seen giant hornets in Japan about that long, so a 5 cm bee isn't impossible. But without knowing the size of that flower in OPs image we can't be certain of their estimate for the bee. $\endgroup$ – user137 Jul 1 '18 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ @user137 Yeah, I’m aware that it’s possible, but with those petunia-looking flowers that the bee is sitting on I figured it’d be worth checking $\endgroup$ – Dubukay Jul 1 '18 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Dubukay "Five centimeters long?? As in, would cover the palm of your hand?" As my palm is 9.5 cm wide (3 and 3/4 inches), no. 5cm is but 2 inches. When it straightens out, this insect is about 5 cm from nose to tail. I'll go to 4.5 cm, but I'm fairly sure it's closer to 5cm than to 4cm when measured end-to-end rather than in the somewhat curled position shown. Yes it sounds large, doesn't it! Thus the title; "Is this a large bee?" $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 2 '18 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ @user137 I've added an edit to the question which reflects the comment above. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 2 '18 at 0:25
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Note: My mistake. I did not notice the OP info that he is in china. There are giant honey bees in China, such as Apis dorsata Fabricius, however their size is only 17-20mm.

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I suggest Bombus dahlbomii. It can grow up to 40 mm long, 1.6 inch

Bombus dahlbomii

Picture

Wiki

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  • $\begingroup$ OP says they found the bee outside Taipei, but Bombus Dahlbomii is South American. The wikipedia link you give doesn't say if this bee is found outside South America. $\endgroup$ – user137 Jul 2 '18 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ Ops. My mistake. I cannot find a anything about a 40-50mm bees native to china. There are large enough wasp but the color and presence of hairs do not match. $\endgroup$ – JayCkat Jul 2 '18 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, it certainly looks similar. Taiwan being an island active in shipping, there's certainly a possibility of movement from South America. Though I don't know how to read these 1, 2, 3 but if dahlbomii could be anywhere in South Neotropical Region then that would include here as well. Would this necessarily be a queen, and could it sting? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 2 '18 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ My bee's abdomen is dark/black and appears smooth, your bee's abdomen is bright orange and fuzzy. My bee's hind legs are orange and fuzzy, your bee's hind legs are black and smooth. Not knowing much about bees, I don't know if that is a big difference or not. There is also of course also the geography thing still... $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 4 '18 at 14:08

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