The Nectar Robbers
If you have a patch of salvia (sage) growing in your yard, watch for the nectar robbers.
Carpenter bees are among the insects that engage in nectar robbing. They drill a hole in the corolla of the flower, circumventing the usual plant-pollinator relationship. In other words, they're “cheating” pollination by "stealing" the nectar. Scientists call this "robbing the nectar."
The most prevalent nectar robbers in our yard are the mountain carpenter bees, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex. They're better at drilling holes than the Texas oilmen.
If you watch closely, you may see a honey bee following the carpenter bee around. She's taking the easy way out, finding the hole pierced by the carpenter bee and then gathering nectar to take back to her colony.
If a flower could communicate, it would probably say something like "Hey, you're doing an end run to get my nectar. Please don't use the side entrance--I have a front door."
Mountain carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, engaging in nectar robbing. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of nectar robbing by mountain carpenter bee on salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee looks for the hole drilled by a carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee engaging in nectar robbing. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)