Thursday, July 1, 2010
I photographed this large, beautiful Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) while at work yesterday. It was nectaring at the pond flowers. These bees are often considered a nuisance when they chew holes in wooden structures like our homes. These holes are used by the females to deposit eggs and provision them with masses of pollen and nectar for their offspring. Serious damage comes not so much from the bees and their original holes, but from woodpeckers that are drilling larger holes to get at the bee grubs that they know are hidden inside the holes. Usually the bees will use trees, like conifers for nest provisioning and egg laying. After pupating,the adults overwinter in the nest where they were reared, they become active in the spring.
These bees can get very big at around 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. They abdomen is hairless and large. The males have yellow-white faces. There is a fuzzy yellow patch of hair on the thorax. They are not typically aggressive in their temperament.
They can be important pollinators when they aren't robbing flowers by chewing holes along the bottom of the blooms thereby robbing the flower of its nectar or pollen. Open faced flowers benefit from the pollinating efforts of these bees.
Male eastern carpenter bees are curious and will investigate anyone, including humans, that comes near their nests. The curiosity is often interpreted as aggressiveness; however, the males are only aggressive to other male carpenter bees. They do not have stingers and cannot cause any real harm. The female carpenter bees tend to be busy with floral visitation and nest provisioning, but have the ability to cause a painful sting if captured.