The Violet Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa Violacea
Violet Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa Violacea
The Carpenter Bee
The Carpenter Bee belongs to the genus Xylocopa and there are over 730 species of the carpenter bee in the world.
The Carpenter bee That is in my particular neck of the woods is the Xylocopa Violacea.
I live on Spain’s Costa Blanca where the Carpenter bee is also known as the ‘Mijas Bee’ and it is one of the biggest bees that I have seen.
It is very difficult to photograph because it is so dark it is an extremely impressive looking bee because of its size.
The carpenter here in Spain although a bee is not the same colour that we see on most bees their bodies are a bluish black colour and they can be up to an inch long which is huge.
Its body consists of three parts the head, Thorax and abdomen. It has two sets of wings that are attached to its thorax.
It has an exoskeleton and because this exoskeleton does not grow with them they have to molt in order to accommodate their growth.
This exoskeleton helps to protect the bee, and the presence of chitlin in the exoskeleton gives it strength and mobility.
The first time I saw one flying it was so big that it must be a beetle and it was not until it landed on a flower that I could see that it was a bee.
When you see this bee for the first time, mainly because of its size, it looks to be a very scary bee.
If you add to the fact of its size, that it also has buzz that is quite loud, you can understand why it appears to be a scary looking insect.
However, from observing and photographing this bee, I have found it to be a very docile bee and not at all aggressive.
A Solitary Bee
Normally bees tend to live in hives or nests where they flourish and thrive because they belong to a social structure where jobs are shared out and each member has its own tasks assigned to it from birth.
Each member of the hive knows its role and the perform it to the benefit of the community.
The Carpenter however does not live in such a community, it is a solitary bee and the male and female each has its own role to play.
It is the females job to lay the eggs and take care of them while the male’s job is to guard and protect the nest.
It is the female that bores the holes in wood to build the nest.
She hollows out a tunnel and constructs a cell into which she will deposit an egg and food.
When the female has deposited both she seals up that cell and the egg is then left to develop on its own.
When the egg reaches the larval stage it eats the food that the mother had deposited in the cell for them before she sealed the cell.
Carpenters do not eat wood, they eat the pollen and nectar that they collect from the flowers.
When running out of room in a nest, Carpenters prefer when possible to extend their existing nest rather than constructing a new one from scratch.
Carpenters are great pollinators and as such they are a great asset to any garden.
If you get near the nest of a Carpenter you will soon notice that they are territorial because the male carpenter will dive bomb and buzz you when you are too close to its nest.
Even though the bee appears threatening, do not worry because it will not sting.
How do I know it won't sting, it is easy I know because because it does not have a stinger to sting you with.
I find this strange that the male does not have a stinger because it is his job to guard and protect the nest.
However, be aware that although the male does not have a stinger, the female does, but she will only use it if she feels threatened by you.
Although it is a solitary bee in some species of carpenter bee the females will live together with their female relatives forming a small social group.
The Life Cycle of the Carpenter
The carpenter undergoes complete metamorphosis
It is at the larval stage that the insect eats and grows to a huge size, ( see the video below)
At the pupa stage, hormonal controlled changes occur and the adult structure begins to form.
Carpenters hibernate over winter and emerge in the spring to mate.
Unfortunately for the male they do not seem to live very long after they have mated.
I wonder if the male remains celibate it will live longer?
The female will store the sperm from the male until she is ready to lay her eggs.
Why is it called a Carpenter bee?
The carpenter bee gets its name from the fact that it makes its nest in wood.
The female bores into a suitable piece of wood by using her mandibles (a part of her mouth) in order to chew through wood.
It is this practice of building its nests inside a piece of wood that this bee gets its name.
A Must See Video
I came across this video of a Carpenter Bee’s nest, this video is of the Eastern Carpenter bee but it looks very similar to the Carpenter bee that is the subject of this hub.
You can see the nest in this video and the live larvae and the nests construction it is fascinating video.
The man in the video seems quite knowledgeable and it is an excellent way for you to get to see what the nest of a Carpenter bee looks like.
Watching this video was the first time that I had been able to see the inside of a nest and I was surprised at the size of the larvae.
A Must see video
Are they a pest?
Some consider it a pest because of the way they bore in to wood in order to build their nests.
However, they normally build in old and decaying wood and generally they will not touch painted or treated wood.
The holes they make normally do not create a large amount of damage. but they are noisy little critters.
Their loud buzzing can be a bit of a nuisance if they have built the nest too close to your house or deck.
Having the bees buzzing in and out of a nest when it is built in a wrong location may be seen as a problem and can cause people to think of them as a pest.
Carpenters can also leave pollen stains near the nest.
In spite of all these potential problems, for me the benefits of having carpenter bees around far outweigh the minor problems they can sometimes cause.
Most of the problems concerning the damage of your wooden structures can be overcome.
If you treat or paint any wooden structures that you don’t want them to bore into the carpenters will leave them alone.
The benefits of treating or painting your wooden structures are twofold,
- This will save the wood becoming damage by the carpenters
- It will prolong the life of your wooden structures
This is a win, win situation in my book, so in my opinion the Carpenter Bees are not a pest they are an asset.
Thank you for visiting this hub.
I hope that you have enjoyed this little peek into the life of the Carpenter bee and enjoyed seeing my photographs of this impressive looking bee.
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