Carpenter Bees take drilling wood to a new level!

I am very impressed with the carpenter bee.  I can’t imagine carving through wood without a tool, let alone my jaws!  The carpenter bee does just that!  Dead wood, burrows, bamboo and exposed structural timber are choice material for a carpenter bee’s nest.

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Compliments of USDA Forest Service. Taken by Stephen Buchmann

A female will tunnel into the wood by vibrating her body as her mandibles scratch against the wood, creating saw dust, which will later be used as partition material for egg cells. Each nest will only have one perfectly circular entrance with other adjacent tunnels branching from it. She will form cells for each egg by first placing a pollen and nectar provision, followed by an egg, and finally a chewed up sawdust partition.  She will repeat this sequence until the nest is full of egg cells. The nests are usually toward the surface of the wood, so minimal damage is done, if any.

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Compliments of Purdue University

Carpenter bees are large and often mistaken for a bumblebee, but if you look closely, you will notice the abdomen of a carpenter bee is sans hair.  The bumblebee’s abdomen is covered in hair. Carpenter bees sometimes have furry yellow heads like a bumblebee.

Like the bumblebee, carpenter bees are solitary, but will form small social groups with daughters and sisters.  Female carpenter bees are docile, and only sting when handled directly.  However, males are aggressive, but it’s all talk and no sting, because they have no stinger!

Carpenter bees overwinter in wood, and can live up to 3 years.  They are found across the southern states of the US and east up into New York.

They are generalists when it comes to foraging, and clever when their size impedes on their ability to reach a flower’s nectar!  If a carpenter bee happens upon a flower much to small to reach in and suck the nectar out, the bee will then cut a slit at the base of the outside of the flower and “rob” the nectar without pollinating the flower! Hey, they have the jaws, might as well use them for more than wood carving! Like the bumblebee, carpenter bees are also very good “buzz” pollinators.  Buzz pollination is the rapid vibration of the flower purposed to dislodge the pollen at the base of narrow flowers.  This makes them great tomato and eggplant pollinators!

Well, that wraps up this week’s featured bee! I hope you are enjoying this journey as much as I am!  There are so many species to learn about, and to see now that we know about them! Enjoy this long weekend and keep your eyes open for new bee species you haven’t seen before!

Thanks for joining the movement!

Jess

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