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I was hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, USA, and at the peak of Mount Eisenhower saw a number of large bee-like insects. They appeared to be nesting in a rock cairn, and were strikingly large---length was about 1.5" (~40mm). Weather was clear, sunny, about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Time of year was early July. Environment was alpine tundra, a few hundred feet above the treeline. Besides the habitat and large size, they seemed like fairly typical bees (I'm saying bees because they were almost certainly hymenopterans, but didn't have the typical "narrow waist" of wasps). The abdomen was the longest part of the body. Behavior-wise, they flew in and out of the cairn, and often rested on the ground (or on backpacks, water bottles, etc). Does anyone know what species this may have been?

(I'm sorry I don't have any photos; even if species is impossible to determine without them I'd be happy for any information on possible family or genus)

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  • $\begingroup$ Did you notice anything about their flying? Did they seem to hover and linger? Did the sound of their "buzzing" sound "off" to you (i.e., unlike a normal bee buzz)? If yes to these, then you most likely saw a bee mimic fly called a hoverfly. [I'm not sure if hoverflies vs bees are more likely to be above tree line in NH]....If you answer "no" to my above questions, any further information you can provide (coloration, detailed behavior, number of individuals, etc.) would be helpful. $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Jul 8 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist I don't remember the sound, but they didn't hover at all. There seemed to be about one or two dozen individuals out and about at a time, but they didn't swarm or gather in groups. Abdomen was dark, if I remember correctly. Again, most striking feature was the size: 1.5 inches long and maybe 2/3 inch wide. $\endgroup$ – Sol Jul 8 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Sol you might want to visit bugguide.net and look at the Hymenopteran families Siricidae (horntails) or Cimbicidae (Cimbicid sawflies); what you've said so far suggests to me that one or the other of those might be the answer to your question. $\endgroup$ – Arthur J Frost Jul 15 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ @ArthurJFrost thank you! Looks like they were probably some sort of cimbicid sawfly $\endgroup$ – Sol Jul 16 at 23:48
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Looks like some sort of cimbicid sawfly. Thanks @ArthurJFrost !

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