Posts Tagged: carpenter bee
We all take shortcuts.
We look for the shortest line at the supermarket, we use keyboard shortcuts, and we text ”how r u?”
So, why shouldn't honey bees use shortcuts? They do.
If you've ever watched a carpenter bee drill a hole in the corolla of a tubed flower to get at the nectar—this is "nectar robbing" or bypassing pollination—you may have seen a honey bee come along and sip nectar from the hole. Why work hard to get at the nectar when it's right there for the taking?
This is the insect version of a convenience market!
Take the foxgloves (family Plantaginaceae, genus Digitalis). Sometimes you'll see a honey bee trailing or shadowing a carpenter bee that moves from corolla to corolla.
Short cut to the nectar!
A honey bee sipping nectar from a hole drilled by a carpenter bee on a foxglove. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A Valley carpenter bee about to drill a hole. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Foxgloves are called "the lurking place of the fairies."
That could be.
Foxgloves are also known by their genus name, Digitalis--meaning fingerlike. The genus is native to western and southwestern Europe, western and central Asia, Australasia and northwestern Africa.
Question: Have you ever pulled off the flowers and gloved them on your fingers? Probably. Not good for the plant, but what fun!
The common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea thrives in a shady spot in our yard. The honey bees and carpenter bees love it, as does a single earwig, which apparently considers it its "hidey hole."
How did it get its name? Legend has it that a botanist Fuchs first named it and the name corrupted or morphed into foxglove, according to Wikipedia. "It happens, moreover, the name foxglove is a very ancient one and exists in a list of plants as old as the time of Edward III."
Reports Wikpedia: "The 'folks of our ancestors were the fairies and nothing is more likely than that the pretty coloured bells of the plant would be designated 'folksgloves,' afterwards, 'foxglove.' In Wales it is declared to be a favourite lurking-place of the fairies, who are said to occasion a snapping sound when children, holding one end of the digitalis bell, suddenly strike the other on the hand to hear the clap of fairy thunder, with which the indignant fairy makes her escape from her injured retreat. In south of Scotland it is called "bloody fingers" more northward, "deadman's bells" whilst in Wales it is known as "fairy-folks-fingers" or "lambs-tongue-leaves."
No matter the origin, the exotic-looking freckled purple foxgloves will long be a favorite--not just by us, but by all the pollinators.
And a few earwigs.
A Valley carpenter bee appears to be "nectar-robbing," drilling a hole through the flower instead of going into the entrance. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee seeks an entrance into the foxglove. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Look here! An earwig has found a "hidey hole." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We all take short cuts--short cuts around the campus, to the beach, to a favorite restaurant...
Honey bees take short cuts, too.
We've often watched assorted bumble bees and carpenter bees drill a hole in a long-tubed flower to rob the nectar.
And we've watched honey bees benefitting from this behavior.
Today we observed a carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, engaging in nectar robbing in salvia at the UC Davis Arboretum. Nectar robbing occurs when a bee or other animal circumvents the usual plant-pollinator relationship and "cheats" by entering a flower from the outside to steal nectar, thus avoiding pollination or contact with the anthers.
There's excellent information on bumble bees, their habitat needs, their behavior, and identifying characteristics in a free, downloadable PDF from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation: "Conserving Bumble Bees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America's Declining Pollinators."
The PDF mentions that "short-tongued bumble bees will engage in 'nectar robbing' from flowers with a long corolla tube by biting holes at the base of the corolla and drinking the nectar from the outside of the flower." The bee grabs the reward but doesn't contribute to "the plant's pollination needs."
Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, robbing nectar from salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee gathering nectar from a carpenter bee's pierced hole in the long tube of a salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another honey bee reaping the benefits of nectar robbing by a carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
People aren't the only ones favoring fava beans.
Fava beans growing in a raised bed in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, are attracting honey bees, European paper wasps, lacewings, ladybugs, aphids and carpenter bees.
We saw all six insects on a trip to the haven last Friday.
While the honey bees and carpenter bees gathered nectar, the European paper wasps, lacewings and the ladybugs searched for prey. The ladybugs were also searching for mates.
The half-acre bee friendly garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus, is open year around from dawn to dusk. Admission is free. Visitors can conduct their own self-guided tours by following the signs and reading the plant labels. Groups that want a guided tour (the cost is $4 per person) can contact Christine Casey at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, life is good in the fava beans.
A lady beetle, aka ladybug, prowling on a fava bean leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European paper wasp on the hunt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on a fava bean blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female Valley carpenter bee robbing nectar by slitting the corolla. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Meet a carpenter bee.
This one (below) is a male carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
It's also called a "mountain" or "foothill" carpenter bee.
When it slits the corolla of the flower--in this case, salvia--and bypasses the pollination process--this is called "nectar robbing."
The mountain/foothill carpenter bee is the smallest of the three species of carpenter bees in California, Thorp says. The other two are the Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, the largest, and the California carpenter bee, Xylocopa californica, the second largest.
The male of the Valley carpenter bee is a green-eyed blond and often referred to as a "teddy bear." The female of that species is solid black. And huge!
The California carpenter bee or Xylocopa californica is known for its distinctive distinctive bluish metallic reflections on the body, Thorp says. The females have dark smokey brown wings.
The one photographed below, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, is common in the center of the Central Valley, "probably due primarily to increased nest sites such as redwood arbors and fences," Thorp says. Although considered a pollinator instead of a pest, "it can be a pest when it gets into untreated redwood used for water tanks or structural timbers," Thorp points out. "The females are black with light smokey-colored wings. The male has bright yellow marks on the lower part of its face and some yellow hairs on the top front of its thorax."
You can see the yellow hair on the thorax.
And how big is the smallest of the three carpenter bees? "Much larger than a honey bee, but about half the size of the other two carpenter bees," Thorp says.
Male mountain or foothill carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, on salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of male carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)