Carpenter Bees

Yellow Chested Carpenter Bee
Yellow Chested Carpenter Bee

The newly acquired Canon EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM lens has proved great while taking fast flying insects like these carpenter bees. They don’t stop at any flower, zooming from one to another Rattleweed plants (Crotalaria retusa). Carpenter bees are known to rob nectar by slitting the sides of flowers with deep corollas. Their name comes from the fact that nearly all species build their nests in burrows in dead wood, bamboo, or structural timbers (except those in the subgenus Proxylocopa, which nest in the ground).

Carpenter bees are traditionally considered solitary bees, though some species have simple social nests in which mothers and daughters may cohabit. However, even solitary species tend to be gregarious, and often several will nest near each other. It has been occasionally reported that when females cohabit, there may be a division of labor between them, where one female may spend most of her time as a guard within the nest, motionless and near the entrance, while another female spends most of her time foraging for provisions.
Carpenter Bee nest in a tree trunk

Carpenter bees make nests by tunneling into wood, vibrating their bodies as they rasp their mandibles against the wood, each nest having a single entrance which may have many adjacent tunnels. The entrance often is a perfectly circular hole on the underside of a beam or tree limb. Carpenter bees do not eat wood. They discard the bits of wood, or re-use particles to build partitions between cells. The tunnel functions as a nursery for brood and the pollen/nectar upon which the brood subsists. The provision masses of some species are among the most complex in shape of any group of bees; whereas most bees fill their brood cells with a soupy mass, and others form simple spheroidal pollen masses, Xylocopa form elongate and carefully sculpted masses that have several projections which keep the bulk of the mass from coming into contact with the cell walls, sometimes resembling an irregular caltrop. The eggs are very large relative to the size of the female, and are some of the largest eggs among all insects.

Metallic Black Carpenter Bee
Metallic Black Carpenter Bee

I spotted two variety of Carpenter bees, one which was having yellow chest which is quite often confused with bumble bees. Most carpenter bees have a shiny abdomen, while in bumblebees the abdomen is completely clothed with dense hairOther was a classic blue eyed black metallic carpenter bee. These bees belong to Xylocopa Genus. I was not able to determine the exact species.

EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/4.5 | Camera : Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Taken : 27 September, 2009 | Flash fired : no | Focal length : 300mm | ISO : 250 | Location : 12° 55′ 19.761239991788″ N 74° 51′ 57.39768019884″ E | Shutter speed : 1/400s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.
EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/4.5 | Camera : Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Taken : 27 September, 2009 | Flash fired : no | Focal length : 300mm | ISO : 250 | Location : 12° 55′ 19.761239991788″ N 74° 51′ 57.39768019884″ E | Shutter speed : 1/400s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.

8 thoughts on “Carpenter Bees

  1. I wonder how hard it must be for this guy to fly with the wing size completely out of proportion to its body. Aeronautical secrets of these insects still remains mystery.

  2. The physics of bee flight has perplexed scientists for more than 70 years. In 1934, in fact, French entomologist August Magnan and his assistant André Sainte-Lague calculated that bee flight was aerodynamically impossible. The haphazard flapping of their wings simply shouldn’t keep the hefty bugs aloft.

    And yet, bees most certainly fly, and the dichotomy between prediction and reality has been used for decades to needle scientists and engineers about their inability to explain complex biological processes.

    Now, Michael H. Dickinson, the Esther M. and Abe M. Zarem Professor of Bioengineering, and his postdoctoral student Douglas L. Altshuler and their colleagues at Caltech and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, have figured out honeybee flight using a combination of high-speed digital photography, to snap freeze-frame images of bees in motion, and a giant robotic mock-up of a bee wing. The results of their analysis appear in the November 28 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Here are the details in summary
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060111082100.htm
    http://www.physorg.com/news8616.html

    So bees can fly after all despite the doubt expressed earlier by few 😉
    Regards
    Krishna Mohan

  3. Thank you for the info. Still science has long way to go before all the secrets of Mother nature are understood. Till then all we can do is watch in awe and wonder at these tiny miracles of nature which surrounds us.

  4. I for one doubt science will ever unravel the secrets of mother nature. I can but hope mankind can learn to better appreciate the opportunities we are afforded to glimpse her caring touch to this planet.

    We have carpenter bees similar to these here in Mountain View, CA USA. I sit here looking at her working even now. They are very friendly and inquisitive bees all in all. We drove off a woodpecker from where they have built nests for years now.

    I have the same camera gear. I should attempt to get a pic of ours. I am fairly certain their eyes are black, like most of the rest of their abdomen.

  5. Dear Richard,
    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my website. Among bees I think Carpenters are the friendliest of the lot. They love to give poses to us as they are not afraid of humans in fact they are more inquisitive of us as you rightly pointed out. I would love to check out their photos. Please do let me know hen you shoot.
    Regards
    Krishna mohan

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