Male Valley Carpenter Bees nectar from wisteria
Location: Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
March 16, 2014 11:30 AM
This morning while working in the garden, we observed at least three male Valley Carpenter Bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, gathering nectar from the wisteria growing on the front porch. The Valley Carpenter Bee exhibits extreme sexual dimorphism, with the male having a lovely golden color while the female, who appears to be a different species, is a deep black. There were no black female Valley Carpenter Bees to be seen, though we did notice females earlier in the week. The males fly for a very short period of time, unlike the females that live much longer so that they can have time to provision a nest with pollen for their broods.
Male Valley Carpenter Bees are perfectly harmless, though they will attempt to defend territory. Since they do not have stingers, they are incapable of harming a human. Females do have stingers, but they are very reluctant to use them. Valley Carpenter Bees frequently visit wisteria and sweet peas in our garden, but they do not have tongues long enough to reach the nectar, so they use their mandibles to pierce the base of the bloom, allowing access to the nectar. In researching this posting, we learned on BugGuide that: “Their eggs are the largest of all insect eggs. The Valley carpenter bee egg can be 15mm long. (UC, Davis).” While taking these images, we observed the first Western Tiger Swallowtail of the year flying overhead, but it did not alight for the camera. Guess our 90˚ temperatures today have brought out many spring creatures a bit early.