I spotted this Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa latipes) on a dry twig. It was holding a twig with its jaws and hanging limp and remained so for quite a long time. It was the resting behavior of these bees. Unfortunately the twig was fairly deep in the bush. Fear of waking this bee when I approached closer made me take the capture from a slight distance. Here I have used Canon EOS 5D Mark III fitted with a Canon EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM + Canon EF 1.4x III Extender. That gave me quite a bit of magnification at a longer distance.
These carpenter bees have the bluish violet iridescent shine of the wings. Angle of light was also important as iridescent shine is seen on only one angle of their wings. Having a diffuse light provides a great illumination for such a shine.
Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa latipes) are one of the largest bees we have here in India. They are a member of the group of solitary bees (Family Apidae). Fully black with wings having a metallic blue, green and purple colors under sunlight. This species is not as sexually dimorphic (distinguishable) as many other species are at first glance, as the male neither differs in color nor has the front of his head lighter in color. However, he has unusual legs; they are unusually hairy, and the front legs are lighter in color, with long, smooth hairs arranged in a strange “brush-like” way. The bee I had photographed here is the Male Xylocopa latipes.
This giant bee is commonly seen feeding from flowers. For some reason, this species seems to feed on flowers much higher up than the another common species, Xylocopa confusa. Xylocopa latipes appears to prefer purple flowers like milkweed (Calotropis gigantea), as opposed to Xylocopa confusa which has a yellow chest prefers yellow ones like rattleweed (Crotalaria retusa). These may not be absolute rules but just general observations I found.
The carpenter bees are so named due to their nesting habits; they bite into wooden surfaces such as logs and tree branches, and, in urban area, wood used for construction. The nest entrance is a round hole, roughly 1cm or so in diameter. Despite their large size and intimidating appearance, these bees are virtually harmless. Their sting is surprisingly mild for their size. Also, males frequently hover in their territory and make darts at any moving object in the vicinity, but are harmless, since they can’t sting. The females never attack. In fact, if the nest site is disturbed, the bees do not emerge; they hide in the nest, with a female guarding the entrance by blocking it with her abdomen. If the hole is touched, she will sting.
This bee frequently evokes both fear and fascination in those who see one. It is assuredly safe to watch this gentle giant going about its work, collecting nectar and pollen or biting a twig and sleeping soundly. 🙂