I was sitting in the shade of a creeper-covered tree the other morning, quietly drinking tea while keeping an eye on the birds in the garden, when a large bee buzzed directly at me. I could see the dark shape heading for my face and heard a loud buzz … seconds later it swerved passed me and disappeared. This happened again. When I was buzzed for the third time I turned around to have a closer look to see where this missile had disappeared to. This perfectly round hole in the trunk of the ancient tree behind me was the only clue.

A closer inspection was called for and I detected some movement from within.

Intrigued, both my tea and the birds were forgotten as I tried to see inside the dark hole – hoping all the while that the resident would emerge. That was not to be, although I saw a fair amount of movement. This was the clearest picture I could get.

So immersed are we in literature and television documentaries from abroad, that the average South African happily calls the overlarge bees that buzz about in our gardens Bumble Bees. These do not occur in this country – Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa species) do. They are well named too, for as you can see from the photographs above, the females of this solitary species burrow into dead wood and then excavate a nest in which they lay their eggs in chambers.

There were two other holes in the tree trunk. The wood at the site lower down possibly proved to be too hard to complete the hole.

The site higher up looked much older, but it too was incomplete.


15 thoughts on “CARPENTER BEE AT HOME

  1. That progression of photographs is quite striking. It appears that the bee came out a bit to look at you. She may be solitary, but doesn’t seem intimidated. Maybe she was telling you to buzz off.


  2. How wonderful that they have found a natural nesting site in your garden, Anne. Sadly here at our home they keep trying to burrow into the carport’s wooden struts, so I have to keep discouraging them by blocking the excavation with wood filler as soon as they start (I cannot get it over my heart to kill such industrious creatures)


    • As I mentioned earlier, we have a number of very old trees that lend themselves to such excavations by Bumble Bees, Black-collared Barbets and various woodpeckers. Glad you can patch the holes afterwards.


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