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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Watching Valley Carpenter Bees

I was headed down to the garage when I heard a gnawing sound and saw a pinch of sawdust fall from the side of the bottlebrush trunk. The Earth Minute video will reveal who was carving a home out of the soft wood.

Four valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) live in the old trunk. These large bees (approx. 1 inch long) live in southern California and are valuable pollinators. Each individual visits more plants daily than a European honey bee.  

The three black females and one golden-colored male share the tunnels, but the females are also carving out new tunnels to lay their 5-7 eggs.

Each larva is sealed in a chamber within the tunnel and provisioned with its own food. They mature to adult form and then break their way out of their chambers.

I love to see these big bees in the garden. Their loud buzz alerts you to their presence. Valley carpenter bees give you a complete evaluation before flying on, but don’t be afraid of them. Like many large creatures they are gentle giants, males do not even have stingers. They are gatherers of abundance, harvesting from the plants but sharing their bounty by pollinating and helping new things grow. I regard them as a personal totem animal. 

One of the most gratifying places to experience an Earth Minute is in your own backyard. Take a moment to explore the world right outside your door.

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