Picture of a male Carpenter Bee used with permission from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/63/Xylocopa-varipuncta-male.jpg

Form and Function

Don’t Call This Carpenter for a Quote

                Xylocopa varipuncta, otherwise known as the Valley Carpenter Bee, covers many

unique adaptions only exhibited in carpenter bees.  To begin with, the term “carpenter bee”

often associated with genus Xylocopa, refers to the species tendency to nest by burrowing into

wood (Nickerson 2001). They mine through logs using theirExample of Carpenter Bees ability to carve through wood to produce their home. Picture used with permission and uploaded by Stephen Buchmann. wide, powerful mandibles or jaws

(U.S. Forest Service 2013).

Contrary from many other

bees’ habitats, X. varipuncta

typically prefers to tunnel

into weathered softwoods

such as pine, cedar, and

redwood, rather than

burrowing in the ground or

creating a traditional tree

hanging hive (Nickerson 2001). For more information on habitat click here. This attraction to a

timbered habitat brings these bees into a closer relationship with humans (University of

Kentucky Entomology 2002). Albeit not always a healthy one as “eaves, window trim, facia

boards, siding, wooden shakes, decks and outdoor furniture” become primary living habitats

(University of Kentucky Entomology 2002).


Who Said Bees Could Fly?

                As with being a member from the “Bee” family, X. varipuncta’s main source of motility

is from its wings (Nickerson 2001). Using its wings, the Valley Carpenter Bee can effectively find

mates for reproduction, locate and then construct potential nests, patrol guarded territories, and

collect food (Choe 2007). The flight possibility of bees has long been a question for scientists. The

motives for evolutional development of wings are clear, but not until only recently has the odd

phenomena been solved. Scientists have analyzed hours of bee flight, and have discovered that

larger bees such as X. varipuncta, flap their wings roughly 230 times per second (Live Science

2006). This number surprised many scientists because it was faster than smaller insects, which

totaled at 200 times per second (Live Science 2006). Generally, as insect species get smaller,

they flap their wings faster to make up for the decline in aerodynamic function. (Hurd



The Gentle Giant

                With an average Adult body length of 1/2-1" (12.5-25 mm), X. varipuncta is

considered one of the largest bees in the United States next to Queen Bumble Bees (Green

 Valley pc 2007). Picture of both the smallest (Perdita minima) and largest (female carpenter bee). Used with permission and uploaded by Stephen Buchmann.When the

living quarters warrant burrowing

into wood, a smaller size

would appear to be more efficient,

so it is strange that in this case,

that notion is reversed (Hurd).

Aside from lacking hair at the

abdomen, X. varipuncta closely

resembles the bumble bee

(Nickerson 2001). It has apical

 spurs, a trait that features short hairs on the ventral surface of an Arthropods tibia, as well as a

“2nd sub-marginal triangular cell in its two front wings, and a small jugal lobe in each of its hind

wings” (Green Valley pc 2007).


Males and Females

                Similar to many other organisms on the planet, there are some substantial differences

in gender. Male X. varipuncta exhibit a golden hue to their bodies with green eyes (Hurd 1995).

A common nick name “Teddy Bears”, has been given to the male Valley Carpenter bees based on

the many calls Entomologist receive about “golden bumble bees?” (University of California

Cooperative Extension 2011). Often times when humans approach, aggressive behaviors are

produced by male X. varipuncta, however, because this species is extremely territorial, it isPicture of a female Carpenter Bee used with permission courtesy of Robyn Judith Waayers.

merely trying to

protect its nest (Hurd

1995). Behaviors that

are documented often

consist of directly

flying and/or hovering

in front of ones face

(Penn State College of

Agricultural Sciences

2003). If these

behaviors intrigue

 you, click here to learn more about species interactions.  The catch, males have no stinger so

these displays are completely based on intimidation. Be wary, the beautiful black metallic 

colored females do indeed have stingers, but will only use them upon extreme provocation

(Nickerson 2001).


Want to learn more?

Click here to read more about reproduction and life history.

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