Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Carpenter Bees

I support my local pollinators. I give them a diverse range of plants to feed on, places to build homes, I leave leaf litter and debris in the garden for them to overwinter. In return they give me... TOMATOES! It's a fair trade.

This past winter was harsh and my Buddleia were all killed back to near or at ground level. After I was sure they had finished sprouting from what wood remained alive I cut back the dead. But the carpetner bees had beat me to those dead branches.

Carpenter bees chew into dead wood and create long tunnels parallel to the stem or branch (or deck railing). They put food in the end of the tunnel, lay an egg, close off the end to create a chamber and repeat till they have filled the tunnel with food and potential offspring.

I was both thrilled and dismayed to find this when I cut back my Buddleia. A carpenter bee nest cavity, complete with caterpillars for her offspring. As you can see several of the chambers are empty, probably from when the branch split and the caterpillars (and eggs) spilled out. 

What's a pro-pollinator biologist to do?

I collected the branch and set it up in a plastic bin. I put a little soil in the bottom in case the larva survive and need some substrate to bury themselves as pupae. I cut a hole in the top for gas exchange (and covered it with window screen because, really, even I don't want loose bees in the house). And now I wait and see - will any of the eggs survive? I wish them luck. 

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