Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pollinator Week: Xylocopa virginica

 Pollinator Week  has been proclaimed throughout the land! Here to help us celebrate is one of my favorite pollinators, the Eastern carpenter bee.

Five interesting facts about this gentle giant.

1. These big beautiful, noisy bees are excellent pollinators. In fact, they are being studied across the globe for pollinating green house crops like passionflower, blueberries, greenhouse tomatoes and greenhouse melons.

2. They are generalist foragers and are known to pollinate garden crops and garden plants. Like eggplant (Solanum melongena), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) and other species in that genus, cucurbits (Cucurbita spp.), cassias (Cassia spp.), Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), cigar orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum), bee balm (Monarda spp.), aromatic sumac (Rhus aromatica), and wild lupine (Lupinus perennis).

cheating pollination!

3. They are buzz pollinators - meaning they use vibrations, or sonication, to release pollen grains from the flower's anthers. To release pollen carpenter bees are able to grab onto the flower and move their flight muscles rapidly, causing the flower and anthers to vibrate, dislodging pollen. About 8% of the flowers of the world are primarily pollinated using buzz pollination. Wildflower gardeners~all Dodecatheon are buzz pollinated! Eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries and cranberries are also buzz pollinated.

large open faced flowers rich in pollen and/or nectar are favorites
4. They typically visit flowers that have large, open-faces with abundant nectar and pollen; bloom during the day; are pale or saturated in color; have a fresh odor; anthers specialized for pollen collection by bees; and corollas with strong walls.

5. They are nectar robbers and cheat the pollination process by breaking open the sides of flowers, like salvias and penstemons to get at the nectar! 

Bonus info. The menacing/dive bombing carpenter bee you encounter is only protecting a nest. It's a male drone and he's all buzz and no sting!

There's probably no other bee that arouses irritation quite like this gentle giant. Just search "carpenter bee" and you will get hundreds of thousands of 'results' and almost all are about how to get rid of them.

They're very cool critters even if when they tunnel into your deck/front porch/garage and I love them even though they have tunneled into my front porch deck! They are now nesting in several large cedar stumps that I have placed around the yard....YIPPEE!

Happy Pollinator Week where ever you garden!xoxogail

PS In case you need a reminder! Please, never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides in your garden. The pollinators will thank you by taking up residence and pollinating your fruits, vegetables and flowers!

 Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I love reading all about pollinators on your blog. There are so many different kinds of bees and I think they are so fascinating. The way they communicate with each other is just amazing. It was great to see you at the Fling last weekend!

    1. It was a delight to see you Diana and I am so glad you enjoy my pollinator posts. They're fun to write.

  2. I love seeing these guys too. I think they've been visiting my lavender and vitex, although I don't recall seeing them on the Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac) earlier in the spring. There were LOTS of pollinators on the sumac, but they all seemed to be tiny bees, wasps and/or flies.

    I have trouble sometimes distinguishing carpenter bees from bumblebees. But I guess the carpenter bees are bigger and shinier?

  3. I haven't seen any carpenter bees here in the PNW, but we had loads of them nesting in the siding of our shed when we lived in Massachusetts. We used to look out at the side of the shed from our big picture window, and watch them hovering about 4 feet away from their nestholes. They are scary and appear aggressive, I never knew they were stingless males. Right now, in my current garden, I have loads of bumbles just gorging themselves on my California poppies. I walk past every day, they don't bother me and I don't bother them. They're seldom still long enough for pictures.

  4. These big bumbles live in our garden. I am always happy to see them bumbling around. Great photos.

  5. I like having the carpenter bees in the garden too, just not in the architecture. At least they are bees that do not sting. I guess the female could but usually wouldn't. Bees in general are on the incline the last number of years in the garden. Happy to see them in abundance.

  6. Interesting information and beautiful photos!

  7. Yay for the generalists! Carpenter bees are the most prevalent pollinators in my garden right now. Earlier in the season, the bumbles were numerous but I'm not seeing many lately. I noticed my neighbor fumigated his foundation recently, so I hope he didn't take out a bumble nest.

  8. What a great shot at the top of this article, love it!

  9. I love this bee and what an incredible shot in the first picture!


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson