24 April 2014
THE SHORT ANSWER (TSA)
A native of the Pacific Coast of the United States and Mexico, the Valley Carpenter Bee (formally, xylocopa varipuncta) is one of several species of Carpenter Bees native to North America. The “valley” female is black, but the male stands out with his yellow color and green eyes. Like all carpenter bees, the “valley” looks furry like a bumblebee. But, unlike a bumble bee, the “valley” has a bare, shiny spot on its upper stomach.
Although all bees are social, the carpenter, like the bumble bee, is the nearest thing to a “loner” bee. These bees don’t fly, searching for flowers in swarms. Individual bees fly alone wandering (“foraging”) from flower to flower gathering pollen and eating nectar. The “valley” likes “yellow composite flowers” such as the Aster, Daisy or Sunflower (members of the Asteraceae family).
These bees are called “carpenters” because hollow out spaces in wood to build their nests. “Valley’s” like to build their nests in old agave stalks or any rotting limb (soft wood). They’ve been known to build nests in telephone poles. But they avoid painted or stained wood.
Valleys share North America with several other species. They are easy to confuse with a different species, the bumble bee, but carpenters are much larger than the small honey bees that live in hive.
Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri
Thursday 24 April 2014