Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You Think Your Legs Are Hairy!

Helen B knows her bees!  This IS a Valley Carpenter Bee.
Xylocopa Varipuncta (male)
They are the largest bees found in California and are about 1" long when they are full grown.  The males are yellow and fuzzy.   They are commonly found in unpainted hardwood and telephone poles where they tunnel in and build nests. Those tunnels can be up to 10" long. That's where the adults spend the winter.  The gals look much different. 

They are shiny and completely black.  They mean business too.  Unlike the males, the females have stingers; but they aren't supposed to sting unless you deserve it.  You've probably seen loads of these gals when the wisteria is in bloom. 

Robin Waayers' Flickr photo (cool image!)

These are good guys; so leave them alone and encourage them to hang around to help pollinate your garden.  They can't fit into tube-like flowers and steal the nectar by cutting right through to get what they want.  Keeping bigger flowers around for them might reduce that nasty action.  Wisteria seems to be a favorite; but I've seen them enjoying lavender too.  Maybe they will help with all the berries currently blooming.

If you're in the San Joaquin Valley, let me know if you've seen many buzzing around this spring.

Thanks, Helen B, for telling me about the bees.


Sincerely, Emily said...

wow! I am not going to worry about the hair on my legs anymore. Those are great photos. What great bees to have around!!

Bill Bird said...

I bet that you didn't know that Carpenter Bees are the only bees that pollinate the flowers of heirloom tomato plants, did you? We have a family of them. I call the male our Battleship Missouri, because you can hear him coming into the backyard from 50 yards out. There he goes! Right by my head, to the nearest tomato patch. And when he begins to drill on a delicate tomato flower? It is a sight to behold. First -- he's a whole lot heavier than that flower, so he literally must attach himself to it because it starts bobbing up and down under his weight. Then the intensity of the loud buzz changes -- switching to a higher pitch -- as he drills into said tomato flower for whatever is buried inside (whatever it is, he likes it). Not only that, but 90% of the flowers this little guy drills into, turn into tomatoes. He's my bestest garden friend in the whole wide world.