As the sun continues to beam down and warm the nectar excitement grows among the swarm. The collective hum of wings is loud enough to be heard from several feet away. As I watch the bees rise and fall throughout the roses it’s intriguing how they seem to have an awareness of where each other is without any air traffic controllers to guide them.
I’ve never been in the military myself but as a kid I was allowed to ride in a C-130 and I had a comment from a friend on Facebook that these carpenter bees were the C-130 of the insect world. If you’ve never been around when a C-130 lands it’s probably one of the noisiest experiences in life. They reverse engines like a ship and that really makes a racket.
Could it be that the noise of a Carpenter Bee’s wings is a navigational aid? A bees antenna contains something called a Johnston’s Organ. Basically it’s an ear that detects vibrations. It’s my understanding that bees don’t hear sounds as much as they feel them. So as other bees are buzzing around them the single bee knows exactly where everyone is even when they can’t see them. Don’t get me wrong, bees have excellent peripheral vision and evidence suggests that they have sharper vision than originally thought. But everyone has a blind spot and it seems that bees can actually fly in the direction where that blind spot should be.
I also need to correct an error that I made in part 1. Bumblebees and carpenter bees are not just two different species but two different genera of bees. Bumblebees live in a familial hive where at best Carpenter Bees form loose colonies at best. Bumblebees are more fury and carpenter bees have almost no hair on their abdomen.
When compared to honeybees an individual carpenter bee can pollinate somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 times more flowers. ( but I would point out that the larger hive numbers go to the honeybees and the hive ratios are problem going to go to the honeybees.)
Like most solitary bees the carpenter bees do not make honey. They do make bee bread which is pollen mixed with a small amount of nectar.
Image Titled “Duel Between The Giants 71120a”
Being solitary bees the carpenter bees do not have a “hive mind”. The concept of “good fences make good neighbors” is alive and well in the carpenter bee world. I witnessed several “duels” between the carpenter bees over marked territory. I’ve seen honeybees work the same flower together with no tension between them but not the solitary carpenter bees. If you watch close bees will groom a flower and then come back to it. When the do this not only do they leave pheromones on the flowers to claim them but in response the flowers sweeten the nectar to encourage them to return. By slipping in to claim a flower that’s already groomed one solitary bee is able to live off of the labor of another and thus conserve energy. However, these duels seemed to be little more than a wrestling match and the deadly stingers are withheld.
Image Titled “Contentment 71020a”.
Generally speaking it always seemed like the bee who was not the bee that groomed the flower gave up easily and the original bee won the right to forage that flower.
Lord willing, I’ll finish up the carpenter bees with part 3 in the next post.
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