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I thought they were bumbles …

Sleeping in the Basil — Carpenter Bee

Every morning in the summer garden, the bumbles are asleep on the basil until the sun comes along to warm them up. They just hang on to a leaf and conk out, apparently. They’re so sound asleep that you can actually pet them gently and they won’t respond.

Weird Alien Scoping Out the Garden

Nearby was this guy, but I don’t think he was asleep and I didn’t touch him. I believe he’s a native thread-waisted wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata). It’s good to see one of these because they indicate a healthy garden (no pesticides, lots of native plants – I bet he was checking out the mountain mint, which was right beside the basil). They like wildflower gardens, where skipper larvae are likely to be, because that is what they feed their young.

Carpenter Bee on Pineapple Sage 2

Once the sun has warmed things up and dried them off, the bees resume their busy-ness and head off for the pineapple sage.

Carpenter Bee on Pineapple Sage 1

When I decided to do this post I wondered how many kinds of bumblebees there are and thought maybe I should figure out which one/s mine is/are.

Wow, does that make writing anything take forever! There are at least 40 species of bumblebees in North America. Of course not all of those can be found in North Carolina, but many of them can.

Carpenter Bee on Pineapple Sage 3

But, none of the species looked right.

Eventually — it often takes me a while — I remembered that there is at least one other non-bumblebee that looks bumble-y.

Carpenter Bee Flying Away

Oops, there she goes!

It turns out she is a native carpenter bee. I think she’s most likely an eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica), but there is a similar species, the southern carpenter bee (Xylocopa micans). The southern one has a mostly coastal distribution, and I’m in the Piedmont, so I’m going mostly by that.

You can see her at the base of the pineapple sage flowers stealing nectar (without pollinating!) by chewing through the flower. That’s something that carpenter bees do. They are excellent pollinators too, just crafty from time to time.

Carpenter Bee on Goldenrod

Carpenter bees are not specialists, so you might see them on nearly any flower. I don’t know what that little black insect beside the big (male) bee is.

Carpenter Bee on Marigold 2

Close by, on a Legion of Honor marigold, another male carpenter bee forages. (Did that just sound like PBS? The voice in my head did when I read back over it.)

The male’s head is slightly narrower than the female’s, and there’s a white patch on his face. When I first looked at the photo, I thought it was a reflection.

Male Carpenter Bee with White Patch on Face

“What are you looking at?” He looks kind of perturbed. They are not likely to sting, fortunately.

Carpenter Bee on Marigold 1

He stops for a couple of seconds, but then it’s back to work.

Carpenter Bees

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