24 April 2014
THE SHORT ANSWER (TSA)
A native of the eastern United States, the eastern carpenter bee (formally, xylocopa virginica) is one of several species of carpenter bees native to North America. The “Eastern” carpenter is black except for a furry yellow abdomen. But the male “Eastern” has a patch of white or yellow on his face. Both males and females have a shiny black abdomen, which clearly distinguishes “Eastern’s” from the furry bumble bee.
Although all bees are social, the carpenter, like the bumble bee, is the nearest thing to a “loner” bee. These bees don’t fly in groups when they’re searching for flowers. A lone carpenter flies alone wandering (“foraging”) from flower to flower gathering pollen and eating nectar.
Like most other types of carpenters, the Eastern is an important pollinator of open face flowers. Most bees draw nectar up and out of the blossom, but the Eastern can be a “nectar robber.” These bees “rob nectar” by tunneling into the sides of flowers in the same way they tunnel into wood to build their nests.
And it’s this tunneling behavior that earns these bees the name “carpenter.” Easterns, like all carpenters, build their nests in the hollow areas they create in soft wood. They have a reputation for damaging wooden structures that is not completely deserved. Woodpeckers seek out carpenter bee larvae for food and frequently “do most of the damage” when they peck on the wood near the carpenter bees’ nest.