Laid back carpenter bee

Violet Carpenter Bee

I took this photograph of a carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) in early April this year in the garden.  I was delighted to see the return of these huge black bees who took delight in piercing the wisteria flowers to “steal” the nectar.

I am surprised that they are not universally liked as they are not aggressive, the male does not even have a sting, but I agree they are very clumsy and you could get buzzed if you happen to get in the way of their noisy flight path.  So aside from accidental encounters of a close kind, it is extremely difficult to get near them.  I felt it was somewhat easier to get close to them in the early spring as they must have been just emerging from hibernation and have been famished.  During the summer time I felt that they were extremely frisky and I failed to sneak up to them without being spotted.

This is why I was very surprised to find some very laid-back carpenters feeding on Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium Cannabinum).  I have seen them over the past couple of days.

Sun catching violet wings

I must admit their different behaviour made me suspect a different species but the red tip on the antenna is supposed to be indicative of the Xylocopa violacea.

Sipping the nectar

I find the carpenters as appealing as the bumble bees probably because of their fluffy appearance.

Serious nectar gathering

They did not seem in the slightest concerned with being photographed by humans at such a short distance, so I decided to make the most of the opportunity and take a short video.  It is only a few seconds long, the battery in the camera was running out for one thing and it is enough to give an idea of its nonchalant nectar gathering.

I wonder if the change in behaviour is due to the approach of autumn and the hibernating season?  Perhaps the greatest driver now is to build up sufficient food stores to be able to survive over winter?

Has anyone any other ideas or has anyone else noticed this change in behaviour?


15 thoughts on “Laid back carpenter bee

  1. Hmmm. Both your April and your September photos are of males, so the explanation isn’t to do with different foraging behaviour between the sexes. I must admit I haven’t noticed a change in behaviour, and haven’t found them unusually difficult to photograph if they are concentrating on feeding. My guess would be that it has to do with the quantity of nectar or pollen they are getting. If the flower isn’t yielding much they may be more skittish, if they are getting a lot they may be more reluctant to give it up and therefore tolerate a closer presence by the photographer. I hadn’t realised they broke into wisteria – the flowers must be too small for them to crawl into.


  2. speedymcspeed

    They are very cute, when it was sunny I could only see the reflection of their shiny wings but in the photos I can see how fluffy they are . They are large so I can see how they might intimidate, although a week in your garden and they never bothered me( they were much more interested in feeding)


  3. Gorgeous, I love the blue sheen to their wings. I like Susan’s suggestion about the quantity of nectar or pollen available perhaps having an effect on behaviour; weather conditions can also make a difference. When rain is coming I can see my bees returning home more frantically than usual.


    1. I think the black does put people off and combined with the size and the fact that they can be noisier than a bumble scares people. Despite the fact that they seem to have amazing eyesight (bad news for taking close-up photographs) they can accidently fly towards you, like the bumbles do sometimes. Usually they are off in the opposite direction like a shot.


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