Posts Tagged: Xylocopa varipuncta
When a rotten apple tree was cut down last week on private property in Davis, scores of eyes peered from the drilled holes. Soon, adult male Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta)--those green-eyed golden bees known as "teddy bears"--emerged with their female counterparts. The males and females look nothing alike; the females are solid black.
As entomologists know, the females drill holes in wood to lay their eggs. When the adult females and males emerge from their cells, they "wait it out" until spring or when the weather warms enough for them to take flight. It gets pretty cold in Davis.
Talented insect photographer Allan Jones of Davis got the carpenter-bee call. "My good friend's son, a football player up from Claremont, cut down the rotten apple tree," Jones said. Surprise! Insects began crawling from the drilled holes.
Jones knew immediately what they were. He's photographed hundreds of them. He picked up the golden bees, knowing that "boy bees can't sting" and delivered them to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
"The golden boys were all clinging together in a little ball when I left (the Laidlaw facility)," Jones said.
Thorp plans to keep them chilled to see if they survive the winter. They also will be part of "show and tell" at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 11 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
The male Valley carpenter bees are often mistaken for a new species of bumble bee. In fact, some refer to them as "golden bumble bees."
The Valley carpenter bees are the largest carpenter bee in California. They are included in the newly published California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, co-authored by entomologist Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley, Thorp, entomologist-photographer Rollin Coville and UC Berkeley botanist and curator Barbara Ertter.
Xylocopa varipuncta inhabits the Central Valley, Santa Clara Valley, and Southern California. At many garden events, visitors are surprised when Thorp picks up a male Valley carpenter bee and lets them hold it and feel the vibrating buzz.
"Boy bees can't sting," he tells them. "They're bluffing."
A male Valley carpenter bee (right) peers from a hole. A female (all females are solid black) occupies the hole next to him.
A cluster of male Valley carpenter bees.
Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen holds a handful of male Valley carpenter bees.
This male Valley carpenter bee backed into its drilled hole to keep warm.
Female Valley carpenter bees are solid black--except when they're foraging around passion flowers. Then they're black and yellow--the yellow being the color of the pollen transferred to their thorax.
Mary Patterson, one of the founding Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven gardeners, planted a Passiflora (passion flower vine) along a fenceline of the bee garden several years ago to attract such insects as honey bees, carpenter bees and Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae). This is the Gulf Frit's host plant.
And the Passiflora does indeed attract them.
The Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) were really mixing it up today during a Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Committee meeting.
The garden, installed in the fall of 2009, thanks to a generous gift from Häagen-Dazs to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is open from dawn to dusk.
Check out the passion flowers. You'll find lots of insects passionate about them.
A Valley carpenter bee receives a brush of pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Check out the yellow pollen on this Valley carpenter bee's thorax. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees frequent the passion flowers, too. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Golden boy?" A male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) to be exact. This carpenter bee is usually mistaken for a bumble bee but a bumble bee it is not. It's a male Valley carpenter bee. And the females of this species are solid black.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, provided information to wide-eyed youngsters as he held the golden carpenter bees, what he calls "the teddy bear bees." They look and feel soft and cuddly, just like a teddy bear.
The questions flew.
Visitor: "Does it sting?"
Thorp: ""No, boy bees don't sting. They don't have a stinger."
Visitor: "Why does he act like he's going to sting me?"
Thorp: "He's bluffing. He's trying to make you think he can sting."
Visitor: "Do carpenter bees make honey?"
Thorp: "No, honey bees make honey."
Visitor: "Can I touch it?"
Thorp: "Yes, can you feel it vibrating?"
Visitor: "Does it die after it mates?"
Thorp: "No, it can mate again. A drone (male) honey bee dies after mating, but not carpenter bees."
Visitor: "What are you going to do with it afterwards?"
Thorp: "Release it back into the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven (a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road that's operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)."
Fact is, it's a pollinator. Keep your eyes open for it and other pollinators on May 8. That's when the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is conducting "Operation Pollination," one of three events on a Day of Science and Service. Your help is needed. Wherever you are in California--at work or at play--allow three minutes to count the pollinators around you. That could be honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, sweat bees, syrphid flies, carpenter bees, bats and the like. Take some photos, too. Then register the data and upload your photos on the UC ANR web page.
We suspect that if and when the nearly 5000 visitors who attended the Bohart Museum open house, catch a glimpse of a "golden boy" on May 8, they'll know exactly what it is, whatever they choose to call it.
- Male Valley carpenter bee
- Xylocopa varipuncta
- Boy bee
- Golden boy
- "Teddy bear bee"
Male Valley carpenter bee draws attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A tentative touch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fingers nestle the male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
- "I just saw a golden bumble bee. I think it's a new species! Can I name it?"
- "I just saw a huge bee and it's gold in color and all fluffy with green eyes!"
- "I just saw a huge bumble bee flying around in our backyard. It's yellow and I think it's a pest."
It's the male Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, which native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of California, Davis, calls "the teddy bear" bee.
Like all male bees, it doesn't sting.
But what's unusual about this bee is its color, golden with green eyes. It's sexual dimorphism at its best, because the female Valley carpenter bees are solid black.
The Valley carpenter bee is the biggest carpenter bee in California. And it scares the living beejeez (dead beejeez, too) out of young children, teenagers, and adults. Just about everybody and everything, including the family dog and cat.
As Thorp told us several years ago for a news story:
"Xylocopa varipuncta occurs in the Central Valley and southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and southward through Mexico. It is large (about the size of a queen bumble bee), with all black females and golden/buff-colored males with green eyes. Females have dark wings with violet reflections."
Some folks think it's a pest. It's not. It's a pollinator. Let it "bee."
Male Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, is blond with green eyes. This is on a germander bush, Teucrium fruitcans. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female Valley carpenter bee is solid black. This is on a rock purslane, Calandrinia grandiflora. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There's an old saying that "good things come in threes."
Well, they also come in twos.
When insect photographers manage to get two insects in the same photo, it's a "two-for."
Autumn is in full swing now, and the colder weather is settling in, but insects continue to provide a variety of diverse photo opportunities.
Two of a kind: a pair of mating Gulf Fritillary butterflies on a passionflower vine, two female sweat bees on goldenrod, and two female Valley carpenter bees on a passion flower.
Gulf Fritillary butterflies: Agraulis vanillae.
Sweat bees: Halictus ligatus.
Valley carpenter bees: Xylocopa varipuncta.
But if you look closely, there are three insects in the Valley carpenter bee photo. The other is a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar.
Good things come in threes, too.
A pair of mating Gulf Fritillary butterflies on a passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two female Valley carpenter bees sharing a passion flower. Note the Gulf Fritillary caterpillar.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two female sweat bees, Halictus ligatus, on a goldenrod. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)