Overview

Brief Summary

Carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.), also known as large carpenter bees, are so named because they build their nests in wood, using their strong mandibles to create perfectly circular holes.

Carpenter bees are large, usually 20 mm or bigger. They resemble bumble bees (Bombus spp.), except that they have smooth, shiny black abdomens whereas bumble bees have very hairy abdomens. Carpenter bees are typically black, metallic blue, greenish black, or purplish blue. They have pale yellow on the thorax, legs, or abdomen. Some males have yellowish areas on the face and much larger eyes than females.

Five species are native to the United States (X. virginica and X. micans are common in the east and X. varipuncta, X. californica, and X. tabaniformis are common in the west). Species in this genus range from Arizona east to Florida, and north to New York and California.

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Ecology

Habitat

Carpenter bees nest in wood and prefer bare, weathered, or unpainted wood or softwoods like redwood, cedar, cypress, and pine. However, they will burrow into structures like decks, outdoor furniture, siding, fence railings, and wooden window trim.

  • Pollinator Profile: Carpenter Bee (Pollination Canada)
  • Carpenter Bees: Xylocopa virginica (Steve Jacobs, Penn State University Department of Entomology, May 2007)
  • Fact Sheet: Carpenter Bees (Susan C. Jones, Ohio State University)
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

For the most part carpenter bees are considered solitary. However, sometimes newly hatched daughters will live together with their mother. These bees are gregarious and will often nest in the same burrow for generations. Males and females emerge in the spring and early summer. Males often dart around outside of a nest waiting to mate with emerging females. Nests are created by tunneling perfectly circular holes into wood, leaving a pile of sawdust behind. Nests are typically 15 mm in diameter and extend about 30 to 45 cm. The nests have a string of individual cells, usually between six and eight, and a partition between each cell made of saliva and sawdust. In each cell the female places a pollen ball and lays one large egg, each egg is up to 15 mm long. The eggs hatch into larvae, which consume the pollen ball, and then enter hibernation. The larvae pupate and turn into adult bees. Adult females can live up to three years and can produce two generations of offspring per year.

  • Pollinator Profile: Carpenter Bee (Pollination Canada)
  • Carpenter Bees: Xylocopa virginica (Steve Jacobs, Penn State University Department of Entomology, May 2007)
  • Fact Sheet: Carpenter Bees (Susan C. Jones, Ohio State University)
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Wingbeat vibrations cause pollen release: carpenter bee
 

The wings of carpenter bees cause pink gentian flowers to release their pollen by beating at a frequency that causes the anthers to vibrate.

     
  "A pink gentian grows in southern Africa, which is pollinated by handsome furry carpenter bees. The flowers of the gentian spread their petals wide, revealing to all a curving white style and three large stamens. Each stamen ends in a long thick anther that seems to be covered in yellow pollen, an obvious temptation to any passing pollen-feeding insect. But that is something of an illusion. The yellow anther is hollow and the pollen is held inside. The only way it can escape is through a tiny hole right at the top of the anther and there is only one way of extracting it. The bee knows how.

"It arrives at the flower making a high-pitched buzzing noise with its wings as most bees do. As it alights on an anther, it continues beating its wings but lowers the frequency so that the note of its buzz suddenly falls to approximately middle C. This causes the anther to vibrate at just the right frequency needed to release the pollen and the grains spout out of the hole at the top in a yellow fountain." (Attenborough 1995:100)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa sp. serian

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Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa KENSPBB

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa KENSPAA

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa sp. aff. collaris

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa GHA4

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Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa sp. GC1

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Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa AUS01

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa ARGPRY01

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa ARG04

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa ARG03

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Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa ARG02

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa ARG01

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa aff. californica

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Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa GHAZ5

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Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa KEN05

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Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa SE Asia 04

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Specimens with Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa SE Asia 03

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Specimens with Barcodes: 3
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa SE Asia 02

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Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa MEX01

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa VNM06

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa VNM05

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Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa VNM02

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Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa VNM01

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Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa KGZ01

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Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xylocopa OMN2

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Statistics of barcoding coverage

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Specimen Records: 680
Specimens with Sequences: 599
Specimens with Barcodes: 507
Species: 112
Species With Barcodes: 99
Public Records: 86
Public Species: 11
Public BINs: 10
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Pollinator

Carpenter bees are generalist foragers and are known to pollinate both crop and wild plants. Examples of plants pollinated by carpenter bees include eggplant (Solanum melongena), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) and other species in that genus, cucurbits (Cucurbita spp.), cassias (Cassia spp.), Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), cigar orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum), bee balm (Monarda spp.), aromatic sumac (Rhus aromatica), and wild lupine (Lupinus perennis). They often forage in the early morning and are buzz pollinators - meaning they use vibrations, or sonication, to release pollen grains from the flower's anthers. Carpenter bees typically visit flowers that are large, open-faced with abundant nectar and pollen, ephemeral day-bloomers, pale or saturated in color, and that have a fresh odor, anthers specialized for pollen collection by bees, and corollas with strong walls.

However, not everyone appreciates carpenter bees for the pollination services they provide. These bees are known nectar-robbers - for some long, tubular flowers the bees' bodies are too large to fit inside and they will cut a slit at the bottom of the corolla and take nectar without coming into contact with the flower's pollen. They have been known to "rob" nectar from sage (Salvia spp.), beard-tongue (Penstemon spp.), rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum), and faba bean (Vicia faba). Additionally, carpenter bees can be viewed as pests. These bees nest in wooden structures, like decks, siding, and wooden window trim, and can weaken the structural integrity of the wood. Additionally, they leave defecation streaks below their nests. For these concerns, though, there is an easy fix - a quick coat of paint. Carpenter bees rarely nest in painted or varnished wood.

  • Celebrating Wildflowers: Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa spp.), Steve Buchman, US Forest Service
  • Effects of Multiple Visits by Carpenter Bees, Xylocopa virginica on Seed Set of Wild Lupine, Lupinus perennis (Fabaceae), S. Hevner and R. J. Mitchell, Bowling Green State University
  • Native Pollinator-Lost and Found, Hannah Schardt, National Wildlife, Oct/Nov 2007, vol. 45, no.6
  • Nectar Robbery by Bees [Xylocopa virginica (L.) and Apis mellifera L.] Contributes to the Pollination of Rabbiteye Blueberry, B. Sampson, R. Danka, and S. Stringer, USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Pollination of the broad bean (Vicia faba L.var. major) (Fabaceae) by wild bees and honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) and its impact on the seed production in the Tizi-Ouzou area (Algeria), M. Aouar-sadli, K. Louadi, and S. Doumandji, African Journal of Agricultural Research, vol. 3 (4), pp. 266-272, April, 2008
  • Nesting habits, floral resources and foraging ecology of large carpenter bees (Xylocopa latipes and Xylocopa pubescens) inIndia, A. J. Solomon Raju and S. Purnachandra Rao, Current Science, vol. 90, no. 9, May 10, 2006
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Wikipedia

Carpenter bee

Carpenter bees (the genus Xylocopa in the subfamily Xylocopinae) are large bees distributed worldwide. Some 500 species of carpenter bees are in the 31 subgenera.[1] Their common name is because nearly all species build their nests in burrows in dead wood, bamboo, or structural timbers (except those in the subgenus Proxylocopa, which nest in the ground). Members of the related tribe Ceratinini are sometimes referred to as "small carpenter bees".

Taxonomy[edit]

The genus was described by French entomologist Pierre André Latreille in 1802. The name is derived from the Ancient Greek xylokopos/ξῦλοκὀπος "wood-cutter".[2] Species in this enormous genus are often nearly impossible to distinguish from one another taxonomically, the majority of species being all-black, or primarily black with some yellow pubescence, differing only by subtle morphological features, and details of the male genitalia. In India, for example, any all-black species of Xylocopa is referred to by the common name "bhanvra", and reports and sightings of bhanvra are commonly misattributed to a European species, Xylocopa violacea; however, this species is found only in the northern regions of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, and most sightings, especially elsewhere in India, refer to any of roughly 15 other common black Xylocopa in the region, such as X. nasalis, X. tenuiscapa, or X. tranquebarorum.[3]

Characteristics[edit]

Carpenter bees have large compound eyes.

In several species, the females live alongside their own daughters or sisters, creating a small social group. They use wood bits to form partitions between the cells in the nest. A few species bore holes in wood dwellings. Since the tunnels are near the surface, structural damage is generally minor or nonexistent.[4]

Carpenter bees can be important pollinators on open-faced flowers, even obligate pollinators on some, such as the maypop (Passiflora incarnata), though many species are also known to "rob" nectar by slitting the sides of flowers with deep corollas.

In the United States, two eastern species, Xylocopa virginica and Xylocopa micans, are found, and three other species are primarily western in distribution, Xylocopa varipuncta, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex and Xylocopa californica. X. virginica is by far the more widely distributed species.[5] Some are often mistaken for bumblebee species, as they can be similar in size and coloration, though most carpenter bees have a shiny abdomen, while in bumblebees the abdomen is completely covered with dense hair. Males of some species have a white or yellow face, where the females do not; males also often have much larger eyes than the females, which relates to their mating behavior. Male bees are often seen hovering near nests, and will approach nearby animals. However, males are harmless, since they do not have a stinger.[6] Female carpenter bees are capable of stinging, but they are docile and rarely sting unless caught in the hand or otherwise directly provoked.[5]

Many Old World carpenter bees have a special pouch-like structure on the inside of their first metasomal tergite called the acarinarium where certain mites (Dinogamasus species) reside as commensals. The exact nature of the relationship is not fully understood, though in other bees that carry mites, they are beneficial, feeding either on fungi in the nest, or on other, harmful mites.

Behavior[edit]

Carpenter bee nest in a tree trunk
A male X. caffra carpenter bee, feeding from flower, South Africa
Carpenter bee gallery in a split piece of lumber

Carpenter bees are traditionally considered solitary bees, though some species have simple social nests in which mothers and daughters may cohabit. However, even solitary species tend to be gregarious, and often several nest near each other. When females cohabit, a division of labor between them occurs sometimes, where one female may spend most of her time as a guard within the nest, motionless and near the entrance, while another female spends most of her time foraging for provisions.

Carpenter bees make nests by tunneling into wood, vibrating their bodies as they rasp their mandibles against the wood, each nest having a single entrance which may have many adjacent tunnels. The entrance is often a perfectly circular hole measuring about 16 mm (0.63 in) on the underside of a beam, bench, or tree limb. Carpenter bees do not eat wood. They discard the bits of wood, or reuse particles to build partitions between cells. The tunnel functions as a nursery for brood and storage for the pollen/nectar upon which the brood subsists. The provision masses of some species are among the most complex in shape of any group of bees; whereas most bees fill their brood cells with a soupy mass, and others form simple spheroidal pollen masses, Xylocopa species form elongated and carefully sculpted masses that have several projections which keep the bulk of the mass from coming into contact with the cell walls, sometimes resembling an irregular caltrop. The eggs are very large relative to the size of the female, and are some of the largest eggs among all insects.[7]

Two very different mating systems appear to be common in carpenter bees, and often this can be determined simply by examining specimens of the males of any given species. Species in which the males have large eyes are characterized by a mating system where the males either search for females by patrolling, or by hovering and waiting for passing females, which they then pursue. In the other mating system, the males often have very small heads, but a large, hypertrophied glandular reservoir is in the mesosoma, which releases pheromones into the airstream behind the male while it flies or hovers. The pheromone advertises the presence of the male to females.[8]

Species[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Minckley, R. L. (1998). "A cladistic analysis and classification of the subgenera and genera of the large carpenter bees, tribe Xylocopini (Hymenoptera: Apidae)". Scientific Papers (Natural History Museum, University of Kansas) 9: 1–47. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.16168. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  2. ^ Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 472. ISBN 0-19-910207-4. 
  3. ^ Gupta, R.K., Yanega, D. 2003. A taxonomic overview of the carpenter bees of the Indian region [Hymenoptera, Apoidea, Apidae, Xylocopinae, Xylocopini, Xylocopa Latreille]. pp. 79-100 in Gupta, R.K. (Ed.) Advancements in Insect Biodiversity. Agrobios, Jodhpur, India.
  4. ^ Jones, Susan. "Fact Sheet Carpenter Bees". Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Yanega, D. "Carpenter Bees, Order Hymenoptera Family Apidae, Genus Xylocopa". U.C. Riverside Entomology Research Museum. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  6. ^ Potter, M. "Carpenter Bees". University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Department of Entomology. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  7. ^ Salvatore Vicidomini (February 9, 2005). "Chapter 40 — Largest Eggs". Book of Insect Records. University of Florida. 
  8. ^ Minckley, R. L.; Buchmann, S. L.; Wcislo, W. T. (1991). "Bioassay evidence for a sex attractant pheromone in the large carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta (Anthophoridae: Hymenoptera)". Journal of Zoology 224 (2): 285–291. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1991.tb04805.x. 
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