Posts Tagged: Xylocopa varipuncta
Valley carpenter bees are passionate about passionflower vines (Passiflora).
You see these black bees foraging on the blossoms. Tiny grains of golden pollen, looking like gold dust, dot the thorax.
Their loud buzz frightens many a person, but wait, they're pollinators.
Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) are found in the Central Valley and southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and southward through Mexico, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
These carpenter bees are large (about the size of a queen bumble bee). The females are solid black, while the males are golden/buff-colored with green eyes.
We receive scores of calls about "golden bumble bees." They're the male Valley carpenter bees, sometimes nicknamed "Teddy bears."
The females are the only ones we've seen in the passionflower vines, though.
The males? They must be cruising somewhere else, patrolling for females.
Most of the time we see female Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) laying their eggs on the leaves, and male Gulf Frits searching for females.
A female Valley carpenter bee is covered with yellow pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female Valley carpenter bee on a passionflower blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's a sure sign of spring when we see "the teddy bear bee."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, calls the male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) "the teddy bear bee."
An apt description, to be sure. It's gold with green eyes and is often mistaken for "a golden bumble bee." It isn't. It's a carpenter bee. The female of the species is solid black.
Yes, they're pollinators.
Thorp netted one of the teddy bear bees March 12 in front of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, and saved it for doctoral graduate student Margaret "Rei" Scampavia and yours truly to photograph for a quick catch-and-release session.
We placed it on a germander bush in the nearby Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. The boy bee. The blue blossoms. Bee Biology Road.
And oh, those green eyes!
Soon the little fellow abruptly fled our photo session, soaring high above our heads and never looking back.
Probably to meet up with the girls.
Male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Teddy bear bee" eyes the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
UC Davis graduate student Margaret "Rei" Scampavia photographs the "teddy bear bee." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of the bee and the camera lens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lots of youngsters received teddy bears as holiday gifts.
But native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, received a teddy bear, too.
A male valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta), aka "teddy bear," recently visited his Davis home during the long holiday season. "We found it behind the couch," he said.
It's a green-eyed blond and fuzzy just like a teddy bear, thus its name. The female are solid black.
To the untrained eye, the male is often thought to be "a new species, a golden bumble bee." We get scores of telephone calls asking what this "big yellow bumble bee" is. A bumble bee, it isn't. A carpenter bee, it is.
Every time I see the females buzzing around, I think "Can the 'teddy bears' be far behind?"
I saw one zipping through our garden last summer but it never stopped long enough for me to capture its image.
But with Thorp's "teddy bear," I could. It's in his refrigerator, spending part of the winter there. Soon, he said, he'll give it a little honey.
A male Valley carpenter bee found in the Robbin Thorp home in Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
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)