a french garden

Big, black, noisy bees in France

43 Comments

The Wisteria in this part of France is in flower now and I suspect that wherever there is Wisteria there will be Carpenter bees.  The first thought that passes through the mind of a person seeing a Carpenter for the first time is – “Does it sting?”

It is large – and measuring 25 to 30 mm long and with a possible wingspan of 45 to 50 mm – so it is a reasonable question to spring to mind.  However, despite its impressive size and loud drone when in flight, it is not an aggressive bee.  Now, I do not recommend trying to pick it up and give it a squeeze because it does have a sting.

Anyone wanting to “test” their aggressiveness has only to try and creep up on one to attempt a photograph.  They are much more difficult to capture with a camera than honey bees.  However, if you happen to be walking past some Wisteria in the spring you could inadvertently have a “near miss” with a male relentlessly patrolling for a receptive female.  The bee will be just as astonished as you are before he manages to steer his bulk around you.

One of the reasons I enjoy the Carpenters in the garden is that they are with us throughout the good weather.  The Carpenter above is on the Heptacodium at the end of September and will have been on all the early blossoms.  Not a fussy feeder and certainly a useful pollinator.

But not all pollinators pollinate all the time.  This sneaky bumble bee is enjoying the Wisteria’s nectar without touching the stamens and pollen.  In fact, if you look closely you can see a couple of black dots to the right of the bee’s proboscis which means that this this particular flower has been visited by other bees earlier.  In fact, the Wisteria flowers become quite ragged from the repeated piercings but this lets the smaller bees with short tongues, like honey bees, take advantage of the easy access route to the nectar.

I love watching the Carpenters in the garden but I do worry that they could be misunderstood so hopefully anyone who reads this blog and is new to Carpenters will come to love them too.

 

 

 

 

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

43 thoughts on “Big, black, noisy bees in France

  1. I do love them! They will not damage wood in good condition, and supposedly will use a bamboo tube for a nest. I believe only the females gather pollen, for their eggs, and the males just eat nectar. Their beautiful violet wings in the sun are just fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just want to give them a stroke! Thanks for the beautiful images Amelia.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am not familiar with this bee, but will look out for it from now on when we holiday in France. I will try not to be alarmed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are wonderful closeups of the bees and I particularly like the ones of the bees in the wisteria- such a pretty colour. I didn’t know about bees piercing flowers! Also, the bamboo tubes for nesting are new to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I rarely see them and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a photo of one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautifull photos ! I have seen some of these bees on a caper bush in South of France. I could not take any pictures because they were so swift !
    We don’t have xylocope in Brittany. Not warm enough, I suppose.

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  7. Carpenters are with us almost all year. They will have missed the bounty of my Wisteria this year but will find other sources of nectar I’m sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The males can’t sting! I worked with a pollinator biologist who loved to catch a bunch of male carpenter bees and release them in classrooms. They were technically harmless, but the kids always lost their minds haha

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The carpenter looks very relaxed and very attractive as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Fantastic photos Amelia – really detailed with beautiful flower backgrounds too. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a Carpenter bee – not sure if we’d get them here …maybe too cold and wet!
    best wishes
    Julian

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I would love to grow wisteria, so this is a good thing to know. Carpenter bees used to scare me but I like to think I’m more tolerant of bugs now that I’m getting more and more into gardening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that is a good thing about gardening. You get back to basics. I used to be scared of anything bug-like and now I love bees and respect all insect life. I try growing some of my own fruit and vegetables and I understand how difficult this is and how much a prey to weather conditions. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  12. How amusing to see an evening primrose there. They are so Californian. Even though wisteria is chinese, I still think of them as being so French or Parisian, just like Japenese flowering cherries and hydrangeas. So many of my lesser favorite flowers and colors just seem to fit France better. I suppose it is like how Southern California can get away with palms easier than we can. It just fits the style.

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  13. I think you are absolutely right! People plant palms and banana trees here and to me they look so out of place (and none too healthy, either.) However, I have just visited Malaga in Spain and so much enjoyed visiting their Botanical Gardens and reveling in the exotic Mediterranean plants they have there. I prefer having the trees and plants appropriate for the climate. Amelia

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  14. I love all pollinators! I wish I had wisteria in my own garden. Alas, I do not have much of my own garden, but my local Arboretum has a pergola with some on it that should bloom in a few weeks!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Last summer I spent a few days in Valence in the south east of France and one of my abiding memories was of the carpenter bees flitting about some very showy pink flowered trees in the town gardens. They’re impressively large but I was unable to get a photo.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Dont worry, I also have bees in the head.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. What a great joy it was to admire Your wonderful photo! Thank You sharing them.

    Happy Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

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