Posts Tagged: Xylocopa varipuncta
A gold rush of sorts.
When the female Valley carpenter bees forage among the passion flowers (Passiflora), they turn from solid black to a mixture of gold and black.
The pollen on their head, thorax and abdomen stands out like magical gold dust, as if sprinkled by the Good Fairy.
On a recent photo expedition in west Vacaville, we watched Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanilla) colonize a passionflower vine (Passiflora incaranata). Meanwhile, these huge Valley carpenter bees buzzed in and out of the purple-centered white flowers.
A golden opportunity, to be sure.
Female Valley carpenter bee, caught in flight, dusted with gold pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female Valley carpenter bee visiting a passion flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gold alert! A female Valley carpenter bee heads toward a passion flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Just wanna be your teddy bear..."
When Elvis Presley sang that, his fans swooned.
Well, there are bee fans that can't get enough of the "teddy bear" bee, aka the male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta).
It's often called a "golden bumble bee." Golden, it is. Bumble bee, it is not.
The female of this carpenter bee species is solid black.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, spotted this male Valley carpenter bee yesterday in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research at UC Davis. He does research in the half-acre bee friendly garden. (By the way, it's located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, and is open from dawn to dusk. There's no admission.)
We at UC Davis periodically receive phone calls about "golden bumble bees." The green-eyed, golden-haired carpenter bee does attract a lot of attention.
"Oh, let me be, your teddy bear."
Or better yet, let me "bee" your teddy bear.
Honey bee and male carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) on tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of the male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) on tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Carpenter bees, which to the uninitiated look like bumble bees, are nice to have around the garden.
Maybe not so nice to have around your untreated patio or fences (as they drill holls in them to make their nests) but just think of them as pollinators, not pests.
As native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says: "Carpenter bees are beneficial in that they pollinate flowers in native plant communities and gardens. That far outweighs any damage to wood structures.”
We receive many calls and emails about carpenter bees. Many folks just want to know "what that loud buzz is" or "what's sharing our garden."The other day we received an email from a carpenter bee enthusiast in Patterson who wanted to know how to keep attracting them to her garden.
She inquired: "I had a couple of female bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) visit my garden this summer, but they seemed only interested in Salvia apiana and citrus flowers. Do you have any idea of other flowers that might interest them (I would like to keep them around longer)? Prefer California native plants."
Thorp responded: "Xylocopa varipuncta is a generalist flower visitor and has been recorded from a number of different kinds of flowers. Some natives you might consider include: Asclepias, Salvia, Trichostema, and Wislizenia for nectar; Eschscholzia and Lupinus for pollen.
Asclepias? The milkweeds. Salvia? Sages. Trichostema? The culinary herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, lavender, and thyme. Wislizenia? Think Wislizenia refracta, also called by its common name, jackass clover. Eschscholzia? California poppies. Lupinus? Lupines.
In our yard, carpenter bees are partial to a variety of native and non-native plants, including salvia, lavender, catmint, rock purslane, purple oregano and African blue basil. They also like the golden day lilies and poppies.
Piercing the Corolla
On Rock Purslane