I've Been Robbed!

Sep 5, 2008

Robber at work. 

No, this isn't a bank heist or a gas station hold-up or a home invasion.

A carpenter bee is slitting the sides of salvia (sage) to steal the nectar.

Floral larceny! Book 'em, Danno!

Carpenter bees are nectar robbers. Nectar robbers pierce or bite into the corolla of a flower to remove the nectar. They can be birds, insects or other flower visitors.

But wait, nectar robbers aren't all that bad. They  pave the way for our beloved honey bee to gather nectar.

The carpenter bee is often mistaken for a bumblebee because of its size and color. The most striking difference: the carpenter bee's abdomen is shiny, smooth and black, while the bumblebee's abdomen is fuzzy, covered with dense black and yellow hairs.

Unlike the bumblebee, the carpenter bee is a pest. To make its nest, the C-bee tunnels into wood, often weakening structures. It's a fairly decent pollinator, however, when it lands on open-faced flowers.

The C- bee can't creep into a tubelike flower to steal nectar, so it bites a hole into the corolla with its proboscis. It's a show of force.  An end run. Touchdown!

If you see a floral larceny in process, don't dial 9-1-1 or consult Section 211 of the Penal Code. Just think of our besieged, beleagured and embattled honey bees that will benefit from this "act of crime."


By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

A female carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex) pierces the corolla of  salvia to rob the nectar. (Identified by Robbin Thorp, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology.)
(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Carpenter bee robbing nectar

The bumblebee is about the same size as a carpenter bee, but its abdomen is covered with dense hair, often black and yellow. This is a Bombus vosnesenskii, the most common California bumblebee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)