I heard recently about a place where there were Carpenter bees, and another spot where there was an osprey’s nest, but when I looked for the bees, they were all gone, and I couldn’t check out the ospreys for over a week because I’d injured my knee falling over in the North Sydney CBD!
When I did finally find the osprey nest, there were no chicks, just a bored looking kookaburra, but then I noticed three Carpenter bees on a nearby patch of dianella. They were all females, and I promptly christened the nearest one Justine, after a cousin of mine who has pink hair.
The bee cruised up to the nearest flower:
As it touched down, it curved its abdomen around the flower:
With its body tightly wrapped around it, the bee briefly buzz pollinated the flower:
It then lifted off:
And headed off to its next destination:
En route, the bee did a little mid-air grooming with crossed legs:
And ducked to avoid a mid-air collision with a wasp-mimicking bee:
The bee then disappeared into the distance.
That patch of pink on Justine’s thorax was pollen—I think from a similarly-coloured flower nearby. The pollen trapped by the hairs on a bee’s body often acts as a visual record of blooms it has visited. This bee, for example, has white pollen from rosemary flowers:
And this one has golden granules from Hibbertia flowers:
The position of the yellow pollen on that last bee also reflects the placement of the flower’s stamens – the pollen is all on the bee’s flanks and underside. It’s also evidence of the bee’s enthusiastic buzz pollination on these flowers – you really can see the granules flying as this bee’s thorax vibrates:
The Metallic Green Carpenter bees (Xylocopus aeratus) shown in these photos are all females – I’ve never photographed a male. The males are a paler metallic green, shading to gold on the front of the thorax. Like their close relative the Peacock Carpenter Bee (Xylocopus bombylans) – whose range overlaps in the Sydney region - they’re big bees, up to 18 mm long and stockily built. Like most other bees they feed on nectar and pollen from the flowers they visit.
There are over 500 species of Carpenter bees distributed around the globe. The “Carpenter” in their name comes from their nest-building habits – they use their powerful jaws to tunnel into soft woods, dumping the shavings outside.
Notes: For the curious, I’ve described buzz pollination in an earlier post on blue-banded bees.
The blue dianella flowers are Dianella caerulea or Paroo lily.