The gentle black giant – The carpenter bee – Abeja carpintero

Last year when it finally turned warmer we had two large black (like small planes) bee like things buzzing about. I just didn’t find the time to take a closer look and they seemed to be harmless.

Now over the last days it turned very warm 22C+ and bzzzzzzzz here they were again.

european carpenter beeThree of these were busy buzzing about and inspecting all the holes, nooks and crannies of the house and garden. They also visited the few flowering plants.

I managed to take some shots when they sat down and rested for a moment and looked this up on the Internet. Finally I found these to be European carpenter bees (abeja carpintero) – see Wikipedia Carpenter bees

Robbing a bit of nectarThis confirmed that they are harmless – only the female can sting but will do so only if directly provoked. The male just buzzes about, guards the nest and looks after the female.
They prefer untreated soft wood to bore rather large holes. As these tend to be near the surface structural damage is unlikely. Come on what can two or three bees, even large ones do?

They tend to visit anything that faintly represents a flower and thus I well believe that they are great pollinators. But they do take short cuts. Something I noticed last year and find quite fun watching.
They do rob nectar! As they are rather large – up to an inch or metric 3.5cm – they simply can’t squeeze into any available flower. But they do not waste any opportunity and bite a small hole near the stem so they can reach the nectar from outside. I would love to get a camera into a flower and see the look on the face of a normal bee struggling up the flower only being confronted by an empty nectar dispenser and a large drinking straw just being retracted. 

So no worries when you visit us and get visited by the gentle giants. The deep humming sound and the metallic blue wings reflecting in the sunlight make it quite mesmerizing to watch these very agile black giants moving about.

It’s infectious so I buzz off till next article.


Abeja carpintero rarely sits down for a moment

update 2009: They are still here. This year I have seen two pairs buzzing about.