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The Eastern Carpenter Bee

This bee drills into wood and flowers

     Gazing out at your garden, you’re sure to see pollinators great and small, from bumblebees to butterflies and wasps. One of these winged creatures is out in abundance this time of year. It’s a big bee. But which bee?
     Photos followed by a few hours of research suggested that the large bee with an all-black abdomen absent hair was the Eastern carpenter bee, ­Xylocopa virginica.
     A bumblebee would be hairier and have yellow stripes, small or large. 
The carpenter is the bee so fond of drilling perfectly round, screw-like holes in soft, untreated wood, to make itself a nest. The female starts the nest, then lays eggs while the males buzz around guarding it. You’ve probably seen lots of them at work and on guard.
     Is this bee causing other problems? 
     Native bee expert Sam Droge of the U.S. Geological Survey advises that “the Eastern carpenter bee and honey bee compete for pollen and nectar, but with so many flowers, the competition has no immediate effect that we know of.” 
      Eastern carpenters are known for “nectar robbing,” chewing into the corolla, or collection of petals that make up the flower, to reach the nectar without pollinating the flower. These effects, too, are “relatively small” to seed production and overall pollination,” Droge says. 
      Are we seeing more carpenter bees? I thought so.
     “Do we really know that there are growing numbers?” Droge asks. “There might have been a lot more in the past when the landscape was more open and there were barns, fences and outbuildings made of rough wood carpenter bees favor instead of the smoother and often artificial materials we see now.”
      Abundant as they are now, most will soon be gone. This generation will die before summer’s end while young bees emerge from the holes their parents drilled to feed before hibernation.