natural sightings 5909

A Valley carpenter bee on a flower.

Stephanie H. of Stallion Springs took this photo of a female Valley carpenter bee nectar-feeding on blossoms.

These are the largest bees that you’ll find in the Tehachapi Mountains, or anywhere else in California. Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) are able to thermoregulate their body temperature much better than other bees and, as a result, can continue flying in hot temperatures without overheating, and in cooler temperatures without experiencing hypothermia.

Carpenter bees get their name from the fact that they tunnel into wood to make chambers for nesting and hibernating. Unlike honey bees and bumble bees, carpenter bees are largely solitary and are not colony nesters. You can sometimes find quite a few of the bees at the same nectar source, like a large tree or vine that is in bloom, but they are each individual bees coming to forage and they do not live together or work cooperatively.

Valley carpenter bees are excellent pollinators and are able to use the “buzz method” of obtaining pollen. In this technique, the bees vibrate their indirect flight muscles as fast as 100 times per second, and the resulting sound waves cause flower anthers to drop their pollen.

Male Valley carpenter bees are remarkable looking: they are a golden honey color with green eyes. They are mostly covered with golden fuzz and they have no stingers at all. They are sometimes referred to as “teddy bear bees” because of their charming appearance and docile nature.

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:

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