Posts Tagged: carpenter bee
To catch a carpenter bee...
The carpenter bees (Xylocopa tabaniformis) that nectar the sage, lavender, catmint and coral bells in our bee friendly garden move fast.
How fast? As fast as a buzz. They buzz into a blur and then back into a buzz.
Oh, but there are ways to capture their images. Consider not just the camera, but the time of day, the habitat, and your presence.
Camera: A macro lens will enable you to get up close. Remove the lens hood so you can get even closer. Like people, carpenter bees don't like being poked with sharp metal objects. Skip the tripod. It's too cumbersome to haul around on insect safaris. Use a flash to stop the action and provide a sharper depth of field.
Time of Day: Shoot early in the morning when the sun hasn't quite warmed them. They don't fly as fast then. They are cold-blooded so their body reflects the temperature around them.
Habitat: Know what they like. In our yard, they gravitate toward the lavender, but they like to mix it up with sage, catmint and coral bells. The pomegranate, citrus, tomato and squash blossoms don't interest them as much as they do me.
Your Presence: There are several rules here. Watch where they go and station yourself there. Make them come to you. Assure them them that hey, you're just part of the scenery. (You don't have to wear a t-shirt that says "I'm Just Part of the Scenery.") Keep low, preferably at their level. Do not shadow them. If they buzz off, not to worry. Like Arnold, they'll be "b-a-a-c-k."
Added Attractant: Sometimes you can dab a little honey or sugar water on a blossom to ensure that they stay a little longer. I'm saving this one for autumn, when the nectar subsides.
Oh, one more thing. If you have a entomologically inclined cat, make sure the feline is not around to disrupt their flight patterns.
But that would make an interesting photo, too.
Caught in Flight
Head in the Blossom
If you like squash, you have a bee to thank.
Without bees, no pollination. Without pollination, no squash.
Honey bees in California pollinate some 100 agricultural crops, including fruits, nuts and vegetables. One of them is squash.
When a squash blossom burst open last weekend in our garden, a honey bee buzzed inside, shadowed by a carpenter bee.
The carpenter bee chased off the honey bee, but not for long. The honey bee returned to roll in the pollen, victorious.
A victory in the garden. Does that make it a victory garden?
Carpenter Bee and Honey Bee
Covered in Pollen
"Gossamer" means something sheer, light and delicate, as in gossamer fabric.
You can also apply it to the wings of a carpenter bee.
We captured this image of a male carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis) nectaring on lavender.
The wings look sheer, fragile and airy. Note the thorax brushed with pollen.
On Gossamer Wings
It wasn't the Battle of the Sexes.
It was the Battle of the Males.
I spotted two male carpenter bees buzzing loudly over the salvia (sage) in our back yard Saturday morning. Each was lying in wait for a female, but instead found a competitor.
Now male carpenter bees are quite territorial and these two were no exception. The would-be suitors chased one another all over the yard, from saliva to salvia. One would buzz into a blossom for a quick nectar fix and the other would aggressively chase it away.
One stopped long enough, however, for me to capture his photo.
Ol' Blue Eyes.
UC Davis entomologist-pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, professor emeritus, identified this male as a Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex Smith
It's the most common carpenter bee in the Davis area, Thorp said. "It loves to nest in redwood structures: fences, arbors, picnic tables, etc. It is the smallest of the three carpenter bees in California. The males are quite variable in hair color on the thorax: from virtually all dark, to some yellow in front of the wing bases, to virtually all yellow on top."
Another carpenter bee increasingly found in the Davis area is the valley carpenter bee. The sighting of the male, a green-eyed fuzzy yellow "teddy bear," prompts lots of calls to the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "What is it?" they ask.
We point them to our Web page for the scoop on the three types of carpenter bees found in California.
As spring unfolds, expect to see more of them.
Ol' Blue Eyes
Ol' Green Eyes
Irving Berlin wasn't writing about carpenter bees when he penned "Easter Bonnet":
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade
I'll be all in clover and when they look you over
I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade
However, if you watch carpenter bees move from flower to flower as they gather nectar, you're bound to see one with its head inside a blossom.
An Easter bonnet, to be sure.
I captured this image of a carpenter bee visiting a California native wildflower, "Bird's Eyes" or "Bird's-Eye Gilia" (Gilia tricolor), on the UC Davis campus. It's aptly named. It's a light lavender and purple tubular flower with a yellow throat and powder-blue stamens.