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

Reproduction and Life History

To Bee or Not To Bee

            Disagreement in the scientific field seems to be overabundant, and downright annoying.

With disagreement though, comes truth and understanding. Xylocopa varipuncta, better known

as the Valley Carpenter Bee, has been under controversy of late on the premise of insect sociality

(Hurd 1995). Due to the lack of Queen and/or worker bees in the nest, as well as distinct

individual males and females, the Carpenter bee family, including X. varipuncta, has been

proclaimed by scientists for many years as non-social (Hurd 1995). Interested in more fun facts?

Click here. Recently though, some scientists have discovered certain behaviors that have led

them to a different conclusion. Using Picture of a female Carpenter Bee visiting a flower. Used with permission from Wikipedia Commons.

X-ray imaging technology,

 Biologist have revealed that

some foraging X. varipuncta have

returned to the nest and fed others

(U.S. Forest Service 2013). These

reproductive, nurturing

characteristics and techniques favor

many similarities shared with social

insects, leading researchers and

scientists alike to label X. varipuncta

as “primitively social” (Nickerson 2001). Although X. varipuncta may not be considered a full-

fledged eusocial insect, the primitively social nature could suggest the beginnings of full sociality

for that species (Nickerson 2001). Quite possibly, in perhaps a thousand years, maybe X.

varipuncta will also be considered a social insect. If your interested in eusociality, trying learning

about Atta cephalotes.

SEX!Picture of a female Carpenter Bee visiting a flower. Used with permission from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Xylocopa_violacea_in_Sardinia,_Italy.jpg

                In the X. varipuncta life cycle, males tend to

be the first out of hibernation in the spring (Hurd

1995). The males will then use that time to prepare for

the mating process by consuming large amounts of

nectar. They will then grow extremely territorial, using

a pheromone “secreted from their mandibular gland to

mark their territory”, and ward off other potential

males from stealing their potential partners (Keasar

2010). Once a female moves into a males territory, the

male will chase her, and in his best effort try to mount

her (Keasar 2010). X. varipuncta in particular, tends to mate in “non-resource” locations (Hurd

1995) Want to read more on either habitats or interactions? Click on either one of the links.


Life History       

                One of the interesting characteristics of X. varipuncta, is that it burrows itself into

wooded nests (Nickerson 2001). During mating, males and females will renovate and clean old

tunnels, as well as create new galleries, roughly six to eight separate chambers, for additional

larvae (Keasar 2010). Click here for more on habitat. Once fertilization has taken place, the

nesting females will lay eggs into separate existing galleries or chambers (Keasar 2010). Each of

these chambers is prepped with some pollen and nectar, better known as Bee  Example of wood tunnels drilled by Carpenter Bees. Used with permission from Wikipedia Commons.Bread, to feed the

larvae (Penn State College of

Agricultural Sciences 2003).

The female will strategically lay

one egg on to each portion of

the Bee Bread before sealing it

off (Penn State College of

Agricultural Sciences 2003).

Once the larvae have hatched,

females will often guard their

young and help feed them by

“trophallaxis” (Keasar 2010). Trophallaxis is a highly developed behavior often seen among

social insects, where the associates of that community feed each other via mouth-to-mouth or

anus-to-anus (Jarau and Hrncir 2009). Touching back on sociality, occasionally, additional

females will help in the care of the offspring instead of nesting individually (Keasar 2010). In

August, after finished with developing, X. varipuncta will leavethe nest in search of nectar, but

will return to the nest with the coming of winter for hibernation (Hurd 1995).


So you want to learn more?

To learn about the classification of this species click here. If you are more interested in some

quick facts, try clicking here.