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Carpenter Bees Stab Flowers to Steal Their Nectar

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With their short tongues, Valley carpenter bees can’t easily drink the nectar from tubular flowers. So they use powerful mandibles to slice into the blooms and steal it. It’s called nectar robbing, since the plants don’t get the benefit of being pollinated by the enormous bees.

TRANSCRIPT

Like all busy bees, this huge female Valley carpenter bee is always on the go. But she has a secret life of crime.

As she forages, she splatters pollen across her cheeks and forehead. That sloppiness helps pollinate flowers and crops, like blueberries and eggplants.

But she also happens to be an accomplished nectar thief.

Some flowers, like this salvia, have nectar that’s hard to reach with the bee’s short tongue.

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It’s easy for a hummingbird to get at the nectar because it has a long beak.

So, she takes a shortcut by slicing an incision at the base of the flower … sneaking the nectar out through the back door.

It’s a selfish indulgence called nectar robbing.

The flower rarely gets pollinated this way because the bee doesn’t get close enough to rub pollen onto the plant’s reproductive parts.

The carpenter bee stores the stolen goods in her crop – a pouch near her stomach.

While she’s busy thieving, nearby this enormous golden male hovers around the same shrub for hours. He’s hoping to catch her attention with his fitness display.

Also known as the teddy bear bee, he’s almost as big as your thumb, but he’s all show. He doesn’t even sting. He’s staking out his tiny territory.

Occasionally he lands, releasing pheromones to mark his spot with a flowery aroma to entice the ladies.

Once in a while his efforts pay off. They mate quickly and discreetly. She’s simply too busy to linger.

Just like their name suggests, carpenter bees are skilled woodworkers. The female bee uses her powerful mandibles to tunnel into dead wood – like logs or tree trunks. Mama bees lay their eggs and provide food for the developing offspring in these chambers. The bees may return to the same nest for generations, expanding and renovating year after year.

Carpenter bees don’t have a queen, and they aren’t as social as honeybees, but several bees may room together in a nest.

Sometimes they carve their homes in structures made by humans, giving them a bad rap.

But it turns out carpenter bees do play an important role in our ecosystem.

They still pollinate many flowers and crops the usual way, but even their crime sprees benefit some members of the neighborhood.

Other insects and pollinators – like this honeybee – take advantage of the incisions left behind.

However, the flowers lose out on this racket. They’re unlikely to get pollinated by the nectar robbers.

It would be better for the plants if carpenter bees entered the front door like respectful visitors.

But despite their rather dodgy reputation, you have to admire their creativity.

Hi Deep Peeps. We’ve got more bees for you. Blue orchard bees construct nests that look like they have scoops of purple ice cream inside. And digger bees build sandcastles at the beach with stunning ocean views. Enjoy!

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