- The Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa spp.) and the Jagera Tree
On Saturday morning (18.03.06) I was privileged to witness what was, for me
at least, a rare and wonderful sight. I awoke about 7.30 and noticed an unusual
buzzing noise outside my bedroom window.
I discovered that the Jagera tree 4 metres away from the building was covered
by buzzing, feasting, large black and yellow bees. They looked like Carpenter
Bees (Xylocopa spp.), Australia's largest native bee species but my
experience of this species is that they are solitary and I had never before
seen more than one at a time and a conservative rough estimate of what I was
seeing in the flowers on this tree was in the neighbourhood of 500-1,000.
one and on examining it closer discovered that it was a female Carpenter Bee.
I can only draw the conclusion that this tree was so attractive that it had
drawn the solitary individuals of this species from quite some distance for
a special seasonal feast. There were other smaller species of native bee also
joining in, but their presence was somewhat eclipsed by the multitude of 3.2cm
apx (1'') buzzing female Carpenters. There didn't seem to be any males present.
Known to be territorial around their nests, they will defend
their 'area' against other bees, flying insects and even birds.
These bees excavate tunnel-like nests with a single entrance
,but often containing more than one tunnel, in solid or decaying
wood or the stems of pithy shrubs. Females buzz loudly when
visiting flowering plants to collect pollen and nectar to feed
their offspring. An egg is laid on a 'loaf-like stored mass
of pollen in the "burrows". As females are the food
collectors for the young they are far more commonly seen than
the males. The males, however, are known to co-habit in the
"burrows", along with females and pupa. Sometimes
groups with more than one female will co-habit.
Carpenter bees are even known to emit a loud buzzing at night
if their nests are threatened (E. Vanderduys pers.comment) One
of the most interesting things about these bees is although
rarely observed in nests they appear to exhibit a rudimentary
social structure that may be the forerunner of "hive"
Burwell, C. and Monteith, G. (2000) "Insects" in 'Wildlife
of Tropical Far North Queensland', Editors Ryan, M. and Burwell, C., Queensland
Museum Publication. P. 131
Leys, R. (2000), A revision
of the Australian carpenter bees, genus Xylocopa Latreille,
subgenera Koptortosoma Gribodo and Lestis Lepeletier & Serville
(Hymenoptera : Apidae), Invertebrate Taxonomy; 14 (1) 115 - 136
Riek, E.F. (1979) "Hymenoptera"
in 'Insects of Australia', CSIRO; 867-959.
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