Posts Tagged: carpenter bee
"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
Carpenter bees pack pollen, too.
A carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex) visiting our gaura last weekend was packing bright yellow pollen, a sharp contrast against her black body.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, said that "the large triangular pollen grains of this and other Onagraceae are held together in strings by viscin threads. You can see this on the anther above the bee’s head. This makes it a challenge for some bees to neatly pack this pollen, but helps pollen to get draped on the plant stigma."
The UC Davis Department of Entomology website includes information on three species of carpenter bees commonly found in California.
These bees are carpenters.
These bees are art.
Professor Jeffrey Granett, who retired from the UC Davis Department of Entomology in January 2007, now spends must of his time working on his art.
He created a hanging piece for "The Bees at The Bee" art show, to be held from 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday, May 8 at the Sacramento Bee's open courtyard, 2100 Q St. The art show, organized by Sacramento artist Laurelin Gilmore, is a benefit for the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
It's open to the public, it's free, and it's the place to "bee" on May 8.
Artists, invited from a 12-county area to participate in the show, will donate a portion of their sales to the Laidlaw facility for honey bee research.
And what did our retired entomologist submit for the show? Think carpenter bee. Think "tattooed" carpenter bee. His work is titled "Carpenter Bee With Tattoo."
Granett, who taught arthropod pest management at UC Davis and researched agricultural entomology, says he has no professional experiences with carpenter bees “but I enjoyed seeing them turning my backyard fence to sawdust.”
“The insect-art is a carpenter bee, probably male but I'm not sure,” Granett said. “It has tattoos on its femurs and tibias and should be hung as if it were hovering over a flower. It is cut from a linocut printed on Somerset paper with ink washes for the coloring. Although I tried to make the insect somewhat realistic morphologically, it clearly has some anthropomorphic characteristics for the viewer to figure out.”
Granett, who received his bachelor of science degree in agricultural research from Rutgers University and his master’s degree and doctorate in entomology from Michigan State University, remains an entomologist at heart, but his interests now include docenting at the Crocker Art Museum and "learning from my grandson."
And creating multi-media art, "Carpenter Bee with a Tattoo."
You've probably seen carpenter bees engage in the practice known as "nectar robbing."
Due to their large size, they cannot enter tubelike blossoms such as salvia (sage), so they slit the base of the corolla. They rob the nectar without pollinating the flower.
But have you ever seen a honey bee come along and enter the very spot of a corolla that a carpenter bee has pierced?
We saw a honey bee do just that at the UC Davis Arboretum last weekend.Maybe this UC Davis bee was "smarter" than the average bee?
Carpenter Bee Robbing Nectar
Honey Bee Robbing Nectar