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.