Bees (Apidae), of which there are more than 19 900 species, are extremely important for ecosystem services and economic purposes, so taxon identity is a major concern. The goal of this study was to optimize the DNA barcode technique based on the Cytochrome c oxidase (COI) mitochondrial gene region. This approach has previously been shown to be useful in resolving taxonomic inconsistencies and for species identification when morphological data are poor. Specifically, we designed and tested new primers and standardized PCR conditions to amplify the barcode region for bees, focusing on the corbiculate Apids. In addition, primers were designed to amplify small COI amplicons and tested with pinned specimens. Short barcode sequences were easily obtained for some Bombus century-old museum specimens and shown to be useful as mini-barcodes. The new primers and PCR conditions established in this study proved to be successful for the amplification of the barcode region for all species tested, regardless of the conditions of tissue preservation. We saw no evidence of Wolbachia or numts amplification by these primers, and so we suggest that these new primers are of broad value for corbiculate bee identification through DNA barcode.