I have a fair number of carpenter bees visiting the garden. In the spring they were in the Wisteria, then it was the Spanish Broom, now it is the Lavatera and Hollyhocks.
Because they are big, black and noisy, Carpenter bees are not considered as cute as the fluffy bumble bees. They are big and clumsy and if you happen to find yourself in their flight path it can be startling. More startling for the Carpenter than for you. They are not aggressive and the male bee does not even have a sting. The female does possess a stinger but it is rarely used. It is hard to imagine that these insects are so shy.
The Carpenter bee is not common in the UK, preferring warmer climates, so it is perhaps for that reason that it fascinates me but it can also frighten someone who is not accustomed to it. I love the violet tinge the wings take in the sunshine and I chase it round the garden trying to take photographs. It is the most reticent of all the bees. Despite the fact I could always find them in the Spanish Broom I could never get near enough to take a decent photograph. It became a sort of game between the Carpenters and me. I would approach from one side and they would go around the other. I would be quiet so I am not sure whether they have got excellent eyesight or whether they could smell me.
They are good pollinators where the size of the flower allows them entry. They are solitary bees, like bumble bees, and have nests where they will take back the pollen and nectar to feed the larvae so they need to collect the pollen for their young.
If the flower is too small for them to gain entry and the nectar too far away for their tongue to reach, they can “steal” the nectar by piercing a hole in the flower near the nectar source. This is how they gather the nectar from the Wisteria, leaving the pollination to smaller insects.
This is exactly the way some bumble bees gather the nectar from Wisteria as short-tongued bumble bees cannot reach the nectar through the flower. These holes are often re-used and the Carpenter bees might even help the bumble bees by making the Wisteria more accessible.
The Wisteria in the spring becomes very ragged as the flower heads are perforated by the bees.
Pollinators have an important part to play in the environment and the carpenter bee is a welcome visitor to the garden. I’m going to continue playing hide and seek with them trying to get close enough to get some more pictures. Big and black they may be but I have been completely charmed by these gentle creatures.