World around you: do you know your bumblebees and carpenter bees? | World around you
A bumblebee (above) has a yellow chest and belly in contrast to the carpenter’s bee (below), which has a smooth belly. DAVID JOHN / Courtesy
By Kelly Bostian Tulsa World
Nothing causes as much a stir as a bumblebee, but is that big, bulbous black and yellow bee you’re seeing actually a bumblebee or is it a carpenter’s bee?
In Oklahoma, carpenter bees and bumblebees can be seen taking nectar from the same batch of flowers, but they are completely different species despite being members of the same family, Apidae, which includes other known subfamilies such as honeybees. There are different genera of bumblebees and carpenter bees, but we’ll stick with the generalities here.
These cousins have very different habits. Bumblebees nest in the ground, are very social and the females provide a painful sting in defense of their colony.
Carpenter bees, as the name suggests, dig themselves into wood, a habit that puts them on pest control lists. They are mostly loners and, according to numerous reports, a little harder to provoke.
Some mistakenly believe that carpenter bees eat wood, but they don’t. It is nesting material for them. Both bees survive on the nectar and the females each collect pollen for their young.
A pair of photos by David John illustrate the difference in physical appearance, which is the first clue whether your buzzer is a dizzy flying carpenter or a troubled bumblebee.
“Both are on the Wildflower Blue Sage, a Salvia,” said John. “Bumblebees have a yellow rib cage and a fluffy yellow abdomen, while carpenter bees have a yellow rib cage with a black spot in the center and a shiny black abdomen.