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The subfamily Xylocopinae (family Apidae) occurs worldwide, and includes the large carpenter bees (tribe Xylocopini), the small carpenter bees (tribe Ceratinini), the allodapine bees (tribe Allodapini), and the relictual genus Manuelia (tribe Manueliini). The Xylocopini comprise a single genus,'' Xylocopa'', and occur on all continents except Antarctica. The Ceratinini also comprise a single genus, Ceratina, also with a worldwide distribution, but the Manueliini comprise only three species which are restricted to Chile and the Lakes Region in Argentina. The allodapines are restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Southeast Asia, and Australasia, with a rare genus Exoneuridia also occurring in montane regions of the Middle East.

A fifth tribe, Boreallodapini, is extinct and known from specimens in amber.

The vast majority of the Xylocopinae species make nests in dead wood, stems, or pith, and while many are solitary, many are also communal or primitively social, and some genera of allodapines commonly form eusocial colonies. Xylocopinae have a cavity between the thorax and abdomen, which provides accommodation for a colony of predatory mites, cleaning their hosts of external parasites.