Natural Sightings #1635 - Valley Carpenter Bee.jpg

A female Valley Carpenter Bee nectar-feeding on flowers.

Stephanie Harris of Stallion Springs took this photo in her yard of a female Valley Carpenter Bee nectar-feeding on flowers.

There has been a lot of Valley Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) activity in the Tehachapi Mountains over the past month. Trees or shrubs in full flower are often visited by these large but quite docile bees. Though they are not aggressive toward people, they jostle and bicker among themselves quite often, and will try to run each other off from a nectar source, even though it appears to a human onlooker that there is plenty of flowers available for all.

Female Valley Carpenter Bees look like big bumblebees without the yellow markings, since they are clad all in shiny, almost bluish black. These large bees are solitary, and don't form colonies of any kind. Nor do they manufacture honey, since they don't overwinter as active adults like honeybees do. The adults feed on nectar, and the females also gather lots of pollen to mix with a little nectar and bee saliva to form "bee bread," which they feed to their young.

These insects get their name Carpenter Bee because they excavate tunnels in wood, using their mandibles to chew through (but not eat) the wood. Happily for those living in wooden houses, Valley Carpenter Bees seem more interested in making their short nest tunnels in dead oak limbs rather than structural timber.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.