Sonoran carpenter bees are big. They’re the kind that, when I see one, I automatically flinch because I don’t want it to bump in to me and have it leave a bruise. Truth is, they’re pretty docile. This one is a female and has a stinger, but will only use it if provoked. Males are brown and somewhat smaller and don’t have a stinger at all.
Posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here.
At Upolu Airport, where I go walking a lot, there’s a mock orange hedge with a passion vine running through it. I check this hedge to see what’s happening on it and lately, it’s been overrun by flies. I don’t know why this is, but I wasn’t surprised when I noticed two praying mantises stationed in the hedge. They were having a field day.
The flies would flit around as flies do, but when one settled, a mantis would strike. Their success rate was quite high, but the flies were easy targets. The safest place to be was on one of the mantises, but that wasn’t a long term solution.
The scene remained the same over three or four days, and then, though the flies were still around, the mantises disappeared. I guess that’s understandable. I mean, how many flies do you think you could eat before you’d start looking for something different?
This passion vine butterfly was feeding on passion flowers, but it will feed on many other flowers, too. It gets its name because passion vines are the host plant for the passion vine butterfly’s caterpillar. Those caterpillars spend their days munching leaves, many of which have little yellow bumps on them. The bumps, which can be seen in the photos, are the plants’ way of trying to fool the butterflies into believing that there are already eggs on the leaves and so it’s not a good spot to lay more.
It’s hard to know how effective this ruse is. I’ve seen many butterflies laying eggs on these leaves, but perhaps some are discouraged. Regardless, the caterpillars will move from leaf to leaf while chowing down, but they never seem to defoliate the plant, which is, in any case, a robustly growing vine.
The Sonoran carpenter bee (Xylocopa sonorina) was first recorded in Hawaii around 1874. This black bee is a female. Males are golden orange in color and smaller than the female.
These bees get their name because the females tunnel into wood to create cavities in which to lay eggs and raise their young. The entrance to a nest is usually a neat, half-inch diameter hole in the wood. In the wild, the bees make nests in dead branches or tree stumps, but around human habitation they’ll bore into fence posts, rails, and roof eves. Because of this tunneling habit, these bees are sometimes considered pests, but the damage they cause is far outweighed by their importance as pollinators.
In Hawaii, passion fruits are one of the many fruits and vegetables pollinated by carpenter bees. The bottom photo shows how the bee’s size helps it pollinate the passion fruit’s large flower. It also shows how battered this poor bee’s wings have become. She was still able to get airborne though.