We have a LOT of Carpenter Bees in the garden, including one I’ve never seen before, which is almost two inches long and has a golden color on top of the head and back, which may mean that it is male. I have watched a California carpenter bee making a home in our newly painted porch roof, because the power washer cleaned it up and made nice little cavities. I think many have made homes in our fence, and in the rotting wood that I leave lying about in piles. I like carpenter bees, so I don’t mind this one bit.
There are 1600 species of native bees in California alone. The Urban Bee Lab has recorded 400 of them in their UC Berkeley garden (in the middle of the city), so it stands to reason that there are nearly as many that could possibly visit my garden in Walnut Creek. Carpenter bees belong to the family Apidae, along with honey bees, bumble bees, and digger bees. Carpenter bees are the in the Genus Xylocopa, and there are three species that live in California; X. varipuncta, X. californica, and X. tabaniformis orpifex. Most of the ones I see in my garden are X. californica, distinguished by the metallic sheen to their wings. It seems to be rather hard to distinguish the male California carpenter bee from the female, as they are both black - the male has grey eyes, and the female black eyes. I also see a lot of X. varipuncta, the Valley Carpenter bee; the males are golden all over with green eyes and are called, fondly, Teddy Bears.
Lately I’ve been noticing something new - the carpenter bees motionless on a flower for hours at a time in the middle of the day. I know they are alive, because the antennae move when I blow gently on them. But I can even reach out and ‘pet’ them, and they do not stir. I was worried because this seemed unusual behavior, and I’m noticing it nearly every day on different flowers.
So I wrote to the Urban Bee Lab, hoping they could shed some light on this behavior. I received a reply almost immediately.
Many bee species have actually been observed 'napping' on flowers! This is especially common in native/solitary bees like carpenters, which don't have a large warm + well-defended colony like the honey bee. Foraging can also be very energetically exhausting for bees so sometimes rest while finding nectar is necessary.
Here's a quick link to a photo of long-horned bees, many of which are native to the U.S., napping: https://honeybeesuite.com/melissodes-sleeping-in-a-thistle/
Isn’t that cool? More research has revealed that the males often spend the night outdoors, waiting for the sun to warm up their chilly bodies before heading out for the day. However, I’m pretty sure that I’m mostly seeing females having a little nap on a flower in the middle of the day. Sounds good. Wish I could nap in a flower.