Flight of the Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bees are Boring (Holes)

Maybe I’m crazy. I know there are times SHE thinks so, when so many chores must be done, and all of them call out to be done first. What does HE do?

Runs inside to grab his camera, on a quest: to see if he can get a shot of a carpenter bee in flight.

Ah, the misunderstood life of the eccentric arthropod-artiste!

The male  carpenter bees–the ones that hovered long enough in place patrolling their territories off the front steps–encouraged me to think I could set focus and wait for one to confront my lens in male aggression. Males do not sting; the females rarely do.

Just learned: some plants (like the passionflower a.k.a “maypop” are exclusively pollinated by carpenter bees, and with the demise of other bees, we’d best decoy them into unstructural timbers for their homes (instead of under my eaves) and keep them around.

And this fact:

Many Old World carpenter bees have a special pouch-like structure on the inside of their first metasomal tergite called the acarinarium where certain species of mites (Dinogamasus spp.) reside as commensals. The exact nature of the relationship is not fully understood, though in other bees that carry mites, the mites are beneficial, feeding either on fungi in the nest, or on other, harmful mites.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpenter_bee

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Funny you should pick this topic! When I was little, I got stung by a carpenter bee that was backing out of a hole I was exploring with my three-year-old finger. Ever since, I’ve had it “in” for carpenter bees right up to today. We have an army of them here! They take aerial swipes at us as we try to go about our own business in front of the shop and the garage…anywhere there’s available wood. and there’s a lot here. My apologies to those who would be so tolerant as to ignore them…we have so many, it’s hard to do. My childhood vengeance is manifest in my heartless actions: daily for about a half hour, I use an insect net and my foot. I swish the air and twist the net shut. Then stomp. The numbers don’t seem to be declining precipitously. In fact, there seem to be at least as many as when spring began! But, I am developing a handsome backstroke and making the effort to decrease numbers seems to make me feel better, anyway!


  2. I get carpenter bees and bumblebees mixed up. I find it very difficult to tell which is which. By the way, we finally moved to our “farm” south of Floyd near the town of Hillsville. We try and make it up to Floyd on Friday nights for dinner at Odd Fella’s and some music at the store. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.


  3. Well, I too mix up carpenter bees and bumblebees, but now I know the difference in behaviour and looks. Thanks Fred.

  4. For some unknown reason wild bee populations are declining along with honey bee colony populations. Those who are studying this problem if its directly related to colony collapse syndrome, the wild bees being much harder to study.

    Bees are a crucial and wonderful part of our ecosystems. Can’t imagine a world without their involvement.