Saturday, February 25, 2012

Carpenter bee and lyre leaf sage

Today a noticed a large green-eyed bumble bee resting on the trunk of an orchid tree. It was a southern carpenter bee (Xylocopa micans), one of my favorite spring insects, waking up from winter. Male carpenter bees are gregarious bees the guard their territories with ferocious arial displays. If you live in Florida or the deep south, you've seen these guys buzzing and hovering about your eaves or any wooden structures like picnic tables, archways, garden trellises, and patio pergolas. They are so protective of their territory that they will dive bomb any movement, especially something the size of a bee. I always like to flick a acorn or small stick their way and watch them track the missile all the way to the ground. Luckily for us they don't have stings.
Male southern carpenter bee (Xylocopa micans)
Male southern carpenter bee (Xylocopa micans)

You will notice as the season wears on that the carpenter bees will start drilling perfectly round holes on the bottom side of any dead wood. Look for little piles of sawdust on the ground. Directly above those piles, you often find a carpenter bee nest hole. Into the holes will go an egg and plenty of pollen for the hungry little larvae. This is why they are so protective of trellises and eaves. Female carpenter bees love a male with prime real estate.

I'm always amazed by the subtle timing of nature. Today's carpenter bee awoke just one day after the lyre leaf sages began to bloom. Salvia lyrata is a very common weed and one of our earliest bloomers. It is perfect carpenter bee food.

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