3 minute video featuring the Eastern Carpenter Bee. The music is the opening movement of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) is an important pollinator for many open-faced spring flowers including the blossoms of fruiting trees—crabapple, apple, pear, peach, plum, and wild cherry—as well as holly and brambles. X. virginica has an especially bad reputation with blueberry growers because they have strong mouthparts (capable of boring into wood), which will easily tear flowers with a deep corolla—blueberries and azaleas, for example. In the video you can see the bee probing into the sides of, and in some instances tearing, the petals to gather nectar from the blossoming Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica). The damage done to wood is usually minimal and cosmetic.
Carpenter Bees are regularly mistaken for bumblebees. Their shiny black abdomen most easily distinguishes them. Male and female carpenter bees can easily be differentiated at a glance. The male has a patch of yellowish-white cuticle at the top its head; the females face is entirely black.
Male Eastern Carpenter Bees are aggressively territorial. They will fly at you noisily and vigorously when in their territory, but it is all just show—they are incapable of stinging!