Entomologists: identify this crazy bee?

Alas, I don’t have a picture, but I saw this crazy-looking bee in the garden this afternoon. I looked for a picture on the web and couldn’t find one that approximated it, even.

It was big (maybe 1 inch long in total) with a very shiny ‘backside’ in a black-and-yellow stripe pattern. The most remarkable thing was its wings: they were brown in colour and huge, by far the biggest wings I’ve even seen on a bee. They looked like they belonged to a totally different insect, a moth or flying beetle or something.

Now, I know nothing really about bee-species, so maybe this is a normal variation, but I thought I would ask here…

Cheers,
Daphne

Carpenter bee?

Yellow stripy abdomen and brown wings sounds like a hornet of some kind.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornet

Or it could be a bee-mimic moth of some kind, like this one:
http://www.ento.csiro.au/aicn/name_c/a_302.htm

One of these things? They call it a Williston’s bee fly. Looks creepy!

It looks most like this one - but I’m not in Australia (rather the Chicago area), so I don’t know if that is even possible.

Thanks, everyone - it sure was a weird bug. If I see it again I will try to get a picture!

D.

There are bee-mimic moths in the UK, along with some that are just sort of stripy in a way that may or may not mimic bees.

Let’s try an identity parade:
Acherontia atropos (Death’s head hawkmoth)

Sesia apiformis (Hornet Moth) (a strikingly effective hornet mimic)

Hemaris fuciformis (Broad bordered bee-moth)