Tag Archives: Agaves

Sonoran Carpenter Bee

A Sonoran Carpenter Bee clambers through agave attenuata flowers
A Sonoran Carpenter Bee clambers through agave attenuata flowers

I saw this female Sonoran Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sonorina) in an Agave Attenuata and at first thought she was dead. But when I went out to look, she moved a bit, then burrowed deeper into the plants and disappeared from sight. I saw her three days in a row on the same plant and then she must have moved on. I’m not sure exactly what she was doing there. She didn’t appear to be collecting pollen but might have been doing so, albeit very slowly!

Agave Sisalana

Agave sisalana plants
Agave sisalana flowers

It’s not hard to spot Agave Sisalana when they put their flower stems 20 feet or so into the air. The problem with that, in a place like North Kohala, is that the trade winds have a tendency to knock them over. They can block roads and driveways, but they’re not like giant trees. They’re pretty easy to cut up and remove.

Even when they’re laying horizontal, so long as there’s some attachment to the ground, the plant will survive and produce flowers.

Agave sisalana plants

Bees on an agave flower

I’ve posted about agave attenuata before, in January of last year (here). The plants are blooming again and, once again, the bees are all over them. This year I wanted to focus on the bees in flight, just before they settled on the flowers to forage. This resulted in a fair number of bees buzzing around my head, but I worry less about that than I used to. I took a lot of photos, most of which were free of bees, or featured bee blurs.

These were a couple of my favorites, each capturing a bee just before plunging into the bounty within.

Agave attenuata

bee climbing through agave attenuata

agave attenuatabees in agave attenuataAgave attenuata is native to Mexico, but is commonly seen in Hawaii. It’s also known as lion’s tail agave, swan’s neck agave, or fox tail agave. These names stem from its long flower stalk which rises from the center of the leaves and arches over. Most agaves bloom and die, but agave attenuata blooms annually without dying. Also, unlike many other agaves, agave attenuata leaves don’t have leaves with sharp points or spiky edges.

The progression of the flowering process can be seen on one agave attenuata plant. In the second photo, starting at the base of the flowering stalk, there is a bare section where the flowering process has finished. Above that is a brownish section where small brown pods have been set. Some of these, that remain attached to the stem, will turn into green fruits. Near the end is the portion of the stalk that is currently flowering and at the end are buds that have yet to flower.

I was drawn to these plants, not just because of their striking flower stalks, but because in the mornings, bees were all over the plant. The top photo shows a bee clambering through a tangle of stamens and pistils. In the third photo, there were lots of bees working along the flowering portion of the inflorescence. Below, sometimes it’s hard work getting to grips with the task in hand.

bee in agave attenuata