This weekend the air was filled with the sound of the newly awakened Carpenter Bees buzzing around and bumping into things. I have always thought of Carpenter Bees as being the rather stupid cousins of Honeybees and Bumble Bees. If the Carpenter Bee were at a family reunion it would be the one handing its beer to a Bumble Bee cousin while saying “watch this”, and then doing something so utterly monumentally stupid and Darwin Award worthy that it ended up getting a million hits on Youtube.
I have formed this impression because for whatever reason Carpenter Bees bump into things, a lot. A sunny afternoon in my garden will reliably consist of the sound of the Carpenter Bees buzzing overhead and then immediately flying face first into the vinyl siding. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz-thud Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz-thud Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz-thud. Without fail. I often wondered if perhaps their eyesight was not what it should be and contemplated a “Seeing Eye Dog for Bees” movement (for those in the UK Guide Dogs for the Bees). Of course dogs would be unworkable, perhaps smaller bees, or even the odd mosquito or two could be trained to lead around the Carpenter Bees (goodness knows it would be nice to find some actual use for a mosquito).
This weekend however changed my thinking about Carpenter Bees. As I wandered around the garden I noticed that the Carpenter Bees were feeding heavily on the Carolina Jessamine. I watched them for a while, marveling in the fact that they were not actually bumping into things but seemed to have a purpose. What was most interesting however was the fact that with their fat bodies they could not access the nectar of the Jessamine flowers the traditional way so they employed a rather neat trick of piercing the base of the flower with their proboscis and then slurping up the nectar from inside the flower.
You can see from this bloom that had dropped off the vine the two very obvious piercings where the Carpenter Bee had harvested the nectar.
This of course has a brilliant advantage over all those smart college attending Honey Bees and Bumble bees in that the Carpenter Bees do not need a flower to open in order for them to access the nectar,
So whilst the Honey Bees and Bumble bees are patiently waiting for the day of the family reunion, Mr. Stupid Cousin Carpenter Bee has broken into the meeting hall and drunk all the beer. Brilliant!