Month: October 2019

Bugs in Orange and Black: Defense and romance of the Gulf fritillary, Agraulis vanillae

  Striking contrasts of orange body and black spines may serve as a warning to predators to avoid making a meal of Gulf fritillary caterpillars.

Striking contrasts of orange body and black spines may serve as a warning to predators to avoid making a meal of Gulf fritillary caterpillars.

 

This week Bug of the Week finds itself in the tidewater of Virginia and on the sunny shores of South Carolina, where brilliant members of the aster clan carpet the sands just leeward of the dunes. Here in the waning days of autumn a beautiful butterfly dressed in orange and black sips nectar in preparation for its journey to frost-free zones along the Gulf of Mexico, while others find romance along a footpath in a garden. The Gulf fritillary is a broad ranging species taking up permanent residence from Argentina to the southern United States. During summer, peregrinations take it as far north as San Francisco on the west coast and New Jersey on the east coast, but in autumn this vagabond travels south to the warm climes of the Floridian peninsula to spend the winter.  

Flowers of the passion vine are among the most magnificent in the plant world.

Flowers of the passion vine are among the most magnificent in the plant world.

 Like other members of the longwing butterfly clan, larvae of this orange and black beauty consume leaves of passion fruit vine. The blossom of the passion fruit vine is one of the most gorgeous in the angiosperm world. Exotic flavors of the passion fruit are used around the world adding zest to ice cream, cheesecake, and mixed drinks. Passion fruit is rich in vitamin C and lycopene and consuming this delicacy is said to sooth a queasy stomach, according to Andean lore. As a group, passion fruit plants are protected from most leaf-munching caterpillars and other vegan insects by a veritable witch’s brew of highly toxic chemicals including alkaloids, a family of toxins that includes strychnine and nicotine, and cyanogenic glycosides, chemicals that release cyanide upon entering the digestive tract of a caterpillar or human.

The gorgeous Gulf fritillary butterfly harbors a couple of unpleasant surprises for any would-be predator.

The gorgeous Gulf fritillary butterfly harbors a couple of unpleasant surprises for any would-be predator.

However, the Gulf fritillary and other members of its clan, including the zebra longwing we met in a previous episode, turned the tables on passion fruit plants, bypassing the noxious defenses and feasting with impunity on their leaves. Some species of longwings sequester cyanogenic glycosides from their food and others manufacture these compounds on their own. presumably for defense. The striking orange and black coloration of the Gulf fritillary warns vertebrate predators not to mess with this beauty. In addition to any plant derived defenses, the gorgeous Gulf fritillary has one more bit of chemical trickery to help keep predators at bay. Glands on the abdomen produce and release a concoction of complex esters when the adult butterfly is disturbed. This stinky defensive fluid dissuades predators such as birds from making a meal of these dazzling butterflies.

Like its cousin the Gulf fritillary, a zebra longwing caterpillar consumes large quantities of passion vine leaves each day.

But the beautiful Gulf fritillary is not all about noxious chemicals and defense. Oh no, in the Norfolk Botanical Garden some Halloween romance was literally afoot, where a mating pair of butterflies engaged in a quixotic duet along a footpath. Many male butterflies, including Gulf fritillaries, have a clever trick for winning the affections of would-be mates. At the tip of his abdomen the male Gulf fritillary has small bristles called hair pencils. The male uses his hair pencils to distribute aphrodisiac pheromones on the antennae of a potential mate. Courtship pheromones are often released by the male over the female while both are in flight. These pheromones calm the female’s innate escape response, and upon landing the male may hover over the female dusting her with more pheromones. The resulting romantic swoon induced by the pheromone allows the male to approach his mate and, well, shall we say, fulfill the biological imperative of procreation.

Asters provide a rich source of carbohydrates to fuel the Gulf fritillary’s autumn migration to frost-free zones in the Deep South along the Gulf of Mexico. Along a foot path a male Gulf fritillary releases aphrodisiac pheromones over the antennae of a potential mate. Will this clever behavioral trick result in a Halloween treat?

Jack o' Lantern.jpg

 Beautiful, dangerous, romantic; what could be more perfect for an insect dressed in orange and black for this festive autumn season? Hope you have a Happy Halloween!     

 

Acknowledgements

 References used in the preparation of this Bug of the Week include ‘Caterpillars of Eastern North America’ by David L. Wagner; ‘Coevolution of Animals and Plants’ by Lawrence Gilbert and Peter Raven; ‘Gulf Fritillary Butterfly, Agraulis vanillae (Linnaeus) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)’ by Jaret C. Daniels; ‘Novel chemistry of abdominal defensive glands of nymphalid butterfly Agraulis vanillae’by Gary N. Ross,Henry M. Fales, Helen A. Lloyd, Tappey Jones, Edward A. Sokoloski, Kimberly Marshall-Batty, and Murray S. Blum; and ‘Introduction to General and Applied Entomology, Third Edition’ by V.B. Awasthi. We thank the amazing arborists of Trees South Carolina and the Norfolk Botanical Garden for providing the inspiration for this Bug of the Week.

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6 Mice Myths Debunked

There are hundreds of species of mice found throughout the world and they are divided into subspecies. So of course, this means there are a few species of mice in North America looking to make a home for themselves in your home or business.

Myth 1. Peppermint Oil Prevents Mice Infestations

Fiction

A common myth about mouse repellant is the use of natural peppermint oil to prevent mice infestations. Homeowners are instructed to dip cotton balls in the oil and place around the home.

Peppermint can be an effective deterrent for mice, but it won’t eliminate infestations. Problems will continue in your home and a professional rodent removal and control service might be needed.

Myth 2. Mice Have Hollow Bones

Fiction

It’s true that mice can squeeze in pretty tight spaces, this has led many people to believe that mice have hollow bones.

They don’t.

Mice have a musculoskeletal system, much like humans. The difference for mice, however, is that they don’t have collarbones.

Without collarbones, mice can easily slip through cracks and crannies in homes and businesses.

So even the tiniest nook or crevice can be fair game for a mouse.

Myth 3. Do Cats Keep Mice Away?

Fiction

It’s true that cats are natural-born hunters and they will catch a few mice during their lives.

However, cats won’t fix your mouse problem.

Many homeowners believe that if a cat is in their house, mice will be deterred and decide to move out on their own.

If your house or any other structure has a mouse infestation, it will be nearly impossible for your cat to control the issue.

The occasional mouse or two is okay for your cat, but mice have been known to transmit diseases and parasites. This can be quite problematic for the health of your pets and your family.

Myth 4. Cheese is the Preferred Food for Mice

Fiction

We’ve been told time and time again that cheese is a weakness for mice. When in reality, mice enjoy a variety of foods.

So, what do mice eat?

Mice are foragers, so they will eat almost anything they can get their paws on — including cheese.

The little omnivore enjoys fruits, seeds, and foods that are higher in carbohydrates. However, during times of extreme stress and starvation, mice have been known to eat their young.

Mice are also known for gnawing on materials that are inedible — like electrical wires and cardboard boxes for example. But they aren’t eating these materials. Mice will gnaw on various materials in order to build a nest.

Myth 5. Mice Only Live in Unsanitary Environments

Fiction

Out of all the myths about mice, this is one of the easiest to believe.

But mice will live just about anywhere regardless of its cleanliness. So, if you think your well-kept home or business is safe, you might want to think again.

Mice will find their way into homes, businesses, and other structures through small openings or damaged areas in search of warmth and food.

No matter how clean your home or office is, mice will surely find something appealing once they make their way inside.

Myth 6. Mice Live Alone

Fiction

Ever since mice made their debut as cartoon characters, we’ve been led to believe that mice live alone. And they happen to have cozy mouse-sized recliners and TVs.

The tiny furniture is obviously a novelty idea, but what about the rest of the story? Do mice really live alone?

Mice tend to live in large groups and will breed frequently. So, if you spot a mouse in your house or business, there are probably more.

When it comes to mice, no matter the species, there is one simple truth to keep in mind: you don’t want them in your home or business.

If you’ve spotted a mouse in your house, our trained technicians can create a tailored solution to remove the critter. Our custom solutions will also protect your family and investment from a future mouse infestation.

To learn more about rodent solutions from Catseye Pest Control, contact us today.

6 Mice Myths Debunked first appeared on catseyepest.com

Model butterflies: Pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor, and Polydamas swallowtail, Battus polydamas

  Color and pattern of the gorgeous pipevine swallowtail warn predators of a nasty meal should they dare to attack. Image credit: Dr. Paula M. Shrewsbury

Color and pattern of the gorgeous pipevine swallowtail warn predators of a nasty meal should they dare to attack. Image credit: Dr. Paula M. Shrewsbury

 

In recent years Bug of the Week has visited several beautiful butterflies whose dominant wing coloration is based on the theme of a black background with series of patches and spots in shades of white, orange, and blue. Butterflies participating in this cabal include the dark female form of the eastern tiger swallowtail, the pretty red-spotted purple, the eastern black swallowtail –eater of parsley and dill – and the clever spice bush swallowtail, whose larvae mimic serpents. Why have all of these beauties converged on a relatively common color scheme? 

Dutchman’s pipe is a favored host for Polydamas caterpillars. Eggs deposited on a growing tip will later hatch into very hungry caterpillars.

Caterpillars of the butterflies that we meet today, the pipevine swallowtail and the Polydamas swallowtail, dine on plants in the birthwort family, Aristolochiaceae, that include vines commonly known as pipevines. Members of this family produce a class of compounds known as aristolochic acids which are known to be mutagenic, carcinogenic, and toxic to kidneys of mammals. As they consume leaves of pipevine, these swallowtail caterpillars store these toxins and in turn pass them along to the adult butterflies and also to their eggs. Aristolochic acids sequestered by caterpillars may help protect them from attack by parasitic wasps. Adult butterflies are rendered distasteful to vertebrate predators such as birds by virtue of these noxious compounds. It is believed that birds attempting to eat butterflies whose larvae consumed pipevines have a nasty experience that teaches them not to mess with darkly colored butterflies. Other species of butterflies capitalized on the lesson taught by the pipevine and Polydamas butterflies by evolving color patterns to mimic their appearance, thereby gaining protection from visually astute predators. This type of mimicry, in which warning colors of a distasteful species like these swallowtails act as a model copied by other palatable butterflies, is called Batesian mimicry. The great English naturalist Henry Bates first described this form of mimicry while studying butterflies in Brazilian rainforests.

This gorgeous resting pipevine swallowtail will soon seek pipevines on which to deposit brightly colored orange eggs that hatch into tiny caterpillars. As the caterpillars feed and grow, they accumulate noxious compounds and take on a startling visage, complete with fleshy dangling appendages and orange bumps advertising their distastefulness.  Video credit: Dr. P. M. Shrewsbury

We met other species of Batesian mimics, such as harmless flower flies that mimic stinging bees and stilt-legged flies that mimic wasps. And adult butterflies are not the only creatures that mimic pipevine swallowtails. Recall that the caterpillars of these swallowtails are also laced with aristolochic acids. Scientists believe that a cyanide producing millipede with deep red coloration mimics the color and pattern of the pipevine caterpillar, thereby gaining protection from predators. We have also seen this mimicry before with several orange and black insects that eat milkweed, including monarch caterpillars, milkweed bugs, and milkweed tussock moth caterpillars.  This convergence on a similar, easily recognizable color pattern by two or more nasty-tasting insects is called Müllerian mimicry, named for the famous German naturalist Fritz Müller.

As this spectacular butterfly season comes to an end, try to grab one last glimpse of one of these dark winged beauties and ponder the question – model or mimic?

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks observant Dr. Shrewsbury for spotting adults and larvae of the pipevine swallowtail and providing the image and a video featured in this episode. “Secret weapons” by Thomas Eisner, Maria Eisner, and Melody Siegler, and the Featured Creature articles “Common name: pipevine swallowtail, blue swallowtail scientific name: Battus philenor (Linnaeus 1771) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Papilionidae: Papilioninae: Troidini)” and “Common name: Polydamas swallowtail, gold rim swallowtail, tailless swallowtail scientific name: Battus polydamas lucayus (Rothschild & Jordan) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Papilionidae: Papilioninae: Troidini)” by Donald Hall provided valuable insights into the clever ways of this week’s stars.

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Home grown mantid: Carolina mantid, Stagmomantis carolina

  A gorgeous Carolina mantid waits for a meal - or perhaps a mate who might be a dinner "guest".

A gorgeous Carolina mantid waits for a meal – or perhaps a mate who might be a dinner “guest”.

 

What a year this has been for insects in general, with banner populations of butterflies, moths, stink bugs, and many others. Not surprisingly, when populations of plant-eaters flourish, we often see an upswing in consumers higher up in the food chain. In previous episodes, we met the two amazing and beautiful foreigners that sit atop the invertebrate food webs in our landscapes, the European mantis, Mantis religiosa, and the Chinese mantid, Tenodera sinensis. This week we visit one of our native mantids, the Carolina mantid, that is turning up in record numbers in our area.  

The Carolina mantid ranges from the Canadian border into Mexico and from the east coast to Nevada and Arizona. Like other mantid species, Carolina mantids eat a wide variety of insects and spiders found in gardens and landscapes. And yes, on occasion the female consumes her unfortunate mate, especially so when mantids are raised in captivity. The extent to which this is an artifact of being raised under unnatural conditions is not known, but it is reported that well-fed gals are less likely to consume their suitors than hungry ones. Several of the mantids I have seen over the past week are gravid females, those carrying a full load of eggs. When enough prey has filled her belly and a lucky, or perhaps unlucky, male has contributed his sperm, the female will deposit her eggs in an egg case. The entomological term for the egg case is ootheca. A mantid’s ootheca is composed of frothy material called spumaline that has the look and feel of an elongated glob of Styrofoam. The female mantid secretes spumaline from glands in her abdomen as she deposits eggs, usually on vegetation or on structures such as fences and houses. The ootheca serves as a protective matrix for scores of tiny eggs resting within.

From afar, a very pregnant female Carolina mantid seems to have her sights set for incoming prey. As the camera invades her personal space, she gives the paparazzi the kind of “what are you looking at” stare that only a mantid can deliver. This disdain for bug geeks apparently starts early. Even juvenile Carolina mantids would rather groom their raptorial forelegs than indulge a guy with a camera. However, the arrival of a large carpenter bee can trigger a hasty retreat.

After emerging from the ootheca, tiny hatchlings take their first glimpse of a world full of wonderful morsels to eat and fearsome predators to be eaten by.

After emerging from the ootheca, tiny hatchlings take their first glimpse of a world full of wonderful morsels to eat and fearsome predators to be eaten by.

After surviving the chill of winter, eggs complete their development with the return of warm weather. Warm weather signals the return of foliage to plants and the presence of legions of small tasty insects that serve as food for developing mantids. Sometimes mantids will deposit eggs on vegetation that could find its way into a home, such as on a Christmas tree or pine garland. In the warmth of a home, eggs within the ootheca may develop and hatch, and become an extra special holiday surprise. With the holiday season not far away, perhaps it is time to make a mental note to inspect boughs and trees before they enter a home. 

Although egg cases of praying mantids can be purchased commercially and placed in the garden, the effectiveness of mantids as biological control agents is ambiguous at best. Remember, they are generalist predators and may capture and eat beneficial insects as well as pests, not to mention each other. Nonetheless, mantids are fascinating to observe and study and I always have an ootheca in my landscape to restock my garden with these marvelous creatures when spring returns. 

Acknowledgements 

Bug of the Week thanks Kathleen, the crew at MPT, and the staff and students at the Howard Conservancy for providing the inspiration for this episode.

 

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Eastern Equine Encephalitis-Related Deaths Reported

Mosquito-Transmitted EEE Virus Has Led to Federal Warnings

Health officials have confirmed 11 reports of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) related deaths so far in 2019.

As of September 2019, Connecticut confirmed three deaths caused by the mosquito-transmitted virus. Three people have died in Massachusetts, four more died in Michigan, and one person died in Rhode Island — all a result of the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of seven human cases of EEE are reported each year. Approximately 30 percent of all cases result in death.

With 11 confirmed deaths caused by EEE, the United States has seen an uptick in reported cases. CNN reported 27 confirmed cases in six states in 2019. The reported cases come from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

What is Eastern Equine Encephalitis?

Eastern equine encephalitis, also known as Triple E, sleeping sickness, or EEE, is an arbovirus — a disease spread by a mosquito or other arthropod.

A more common arbovirus spread by mosquitoes that comes to mind for many of is West Nile virus.

The EEE virus (EEEV) transmitted through a bite by an infected mosquito and can lead to an inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis.

EEE can lead to ongoing neurological problems, and in some cases, death.

People under the age of 15 or over the age of 50 have the highest risk for developing a disease when infected with EEEV.

Those who live in wooded areas, work outside, or participate in outdoor activities also have a greater chance of potential exposure.

Symptoms of EEE

A person bitten by an infected mosquito can develop symptoms of EEE in approximately four to 10 days.

Symptoms of EEE include the sudden onset of headaches, fever, chills, and vomiting. It can then progress into disorientation, seizures, and then a coma.

Unfortunately for humans, there is no treatment for EEE. Anti-viral drugs and antibiotics have not proven to be effective against the virus. There is an EEE vaccine for horses, however.

In severe cases supportive therapy including hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids can be used to help make the person a little more comfortable.

How to Prevent Mosquito Bites & EEE

It can be impossible to do completely but preventing mosquito bites is the best form of EEE prevention.

People engaging in outside activities are encouraged to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and use insect repellent.

Homeowners and business should also take precautions to eliminate a mosquito infestation on their property.

Standing water is an ideal place for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Problem areas could be wetlands, pools, plastic toys, tarps, even plant saucers and water bowls.

Removing debris and/or clutter from the property can help prevent a mosquito infestation.

To further reduce the possibility of a mosquito infestation, Catseye Pest Control offers a one-of-a-kind organic program that helps eliminate mosquitoes and ticks.

Our Organic Tick and Mosquito Program includes an in-depth inspection of the property, customized treatment plan, and monthly visits to create an organic protective barrier around the property.

The products our technicians use is environmentally friendly, safe for your family and pets while providing you with the protective barrier your property needs.

To learn more about how Catseye can protect you from unwanted pests, contact our pest and wildlife professionals today.

This article appeared first on Catseye Pest

How Do You Get Cockroaches?

Learn How Cockroaches Get in Homes & What to Do About a Cockroach Infestation

A common misconception is that a cockroach infestation will only occur in unkept or dirty houses.

Unfortunately for homeowners (and business owners), cockroach infestations can happen to homes and buildings that are spotless.

Yes, even spotless homes are susceptible and can leave homeowners asking themselves, “How did I get cockroaches?”

Roaches can carry diseases and can even trigger allergies or asthma attacks — in addition to simply giving many of us the heebie-jeebies.

And it’s not just one species of cockroach that people need to worry about, there are quite a few cockroaches found in Florida.

How Did Cockroaches Get in my House?

These pests are very resourceful.

Cockroaches, like the German and brown-banded cockroach, have been known to enter homes by catching a ride on grocery bags, luggage, furniture, and cardboard boxes.

It’s important to inspect these items before bringing them inside, especially packages that were shipped to the house.

Roaches can also use crawl spaces and low-clearance areas as points of entry to access homes.

Multi-family homes, like condos and duplexes, are susceptible to cockroaches using the plumbing between shared walls as a means of traveling.

American cockroaches (also known as the Palmetto bug), for example, will move along pipes to find their way through the building and to a source of food.

Drains can be another favorite entry point for cockroaches. Sewer systems and drainage pipes undergoing repair work could lead to American cockroaches becoming displaced and looking for a new home.

To prevent cockroaches from traveling between shared walls, holes, cracks, and crevices should be sealed. Window screens should be firmly in place and cracks around windows and doors should be sealed.

Where Are Cockroaches Commonly Found?

Since cockroaches are very resourceful, hiding in plain sight comes naturally to the pest.

Understanding an ideal environment and feeding habit for a cockroach will make it easier to identify areas where the pest prefers to hide.

Roaches tend to seek shelter in tight or smaller areas, such as cracks and crevices.

The German cockroach is one of the most common indoor cockroach, especially in warmer or humid climates — like Southwest Florida.

American cockroaches are another cockroach species that is commonly found in Florida even though they prefer cool, damp areas. This makes the basement an ideal area for a cockroach infestation.

Many cockroaches prefer to live near a water source, such as kitchen sinks and bathrooms. Others, like the brown-banded cockroach prefer warmer, drier areas. This roach species is typically found hiding in cabinets, closet shelves, and pantries. It is also possible to find brown-banded cockroaches near electronics and appliances — like televisions and behind the refrigerator.

Cockroaches can essentially flatten their bodies, making it easy for the pest to squeeze into seemingly impossible areas.

To help discourage cockroaches from infesting your home, we encourage homeowners to store food in air-tight containers, use a garbage can with a tight-fitting lid, and to clean dirty dishes daily.

It is also recommended to get rid of corrugated boxes because these can be a favorite spot for some cockroaches.

Cockroach Infestation Signs

Roaches are a nocturnal pest that prefers to travel and feed in the dark.

So, spotting even a single cockroach during the daytime could be an indication of an infestation.

Other cockroach infestation signs include unpleasant odors, fecal droppings that resemble coffee grounds or black pepper, and oval-shaped, brown-colored egg cases also known as oothecae.

How to Handle Cockroach Infestation When DIY Solutions Don’t Work

For many, the initial reaction is to purchase a bug bomb or pesticides online or from a hardware store to handle the infestation.

However, many DIY solutions for cockroaches don’t actually eliminate the infestation. Bug bombs, also known as total-release foggers, release a repellent that makes it seem as though the roaches are gone.

However, the infestation simply moves from one area of the home to another area that the fogger didn’t reach.

It is also virtually impossible for foggers to reach inside cabinets and the nooks we’ve learned cockroaches can squeeze themselves into.

To effectively eliminate a cockroach infestation, working with a pest management professional is the safest decision a homeowner can make.

The licensed technicians at Catseye Pest Control are able to identify the cockroach species and then create a customized solution to effectively eliminate the cockroach infestation.

If you feel your Florida home might have a cockroach infestation, you are urged to contact our pest management professionals.

Acting quickly helps to prevent a larger issue.

This article appeared first on Catseye Pest

Bumble bee, carpenter bee, he bee, she bee: Bumbus spp., Xylocopa spp.

  On a dewy morning, male (left) and female (right) carpenter bees await a warm-up from the brilliant autumn sun.

On a dewy morning, male (left) and female (right) carpenter bees await a warm-up from the brilliant autumn sun.

  You may have seen the carpenter bee’s hole on the outside of your siding - here’s a look at the brood galleries on the inside.

You may have seen the carpenter bee’s hole on the outside of your siding – here’s a look at the brood galleries on the inside.

In this season of record breaking, smoking hot days, blossoms have been humming with a multitude of bees, butterflies, and other fascinating pollinators. Visits to flower beds and pollinator gardens with children and adults during the past week or two, sparked wonder at the vast number of large bumble bees busily gathering nectar from late season blossoms. While there is no doubt that many of the bee sightings were indeed bumble bees, this is the season that a fresh crop of carpenter bees mobs patches of flowers to fatten-up on floral delights in preparation for the upcoming winter. Months ago busy female carpenter bees devoted weeks constructing galleries in wood, provisioning these galleries with pollen, and depositing eggs within. Summer and early fall were a time for the eggs to hatch and the young bee larvae to consume these morsels, complete their development, pupate, and emerge as adults.  Galleries used as nurseries throughout spring and summer will soon serve as winter refuges for this year’s class of carpenter bees.

Note the shiny hairless abdomen of the carpenter bee.

Note the shiny hairless abdomen of the carpenter bee.

With a little practice, carpenter bees can be distinguished from their look-alike bumble bee cousins. A carpenter bee’s rump is relatively naked, whereas a bumble bee’s rear end is usually quite well cloaked with hair. The head of the carpenter bee is about the width of the thorax, the body segment just behind the head. The head of a bumble bee is noticeably smaller than thorax.

Hair on the abdomen is a hallmark of the bumble bee.

Hair on the abdomen is a hallmark of the bumble bee.

Having identified the bee as a carpenter bee, how does one distinguish the guys from the gals? The gender of some carpenter bees, such as the Large Carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, are easily recognized by the presence or absence of a large creamy white patch just below the antennae on the front of its face: the male sports the white patch, but the face of the female large carpenter bee is entirely black. On occasion I have captured large male carpenter bees with my hand to demonstrate that they are not to be feared, as they have no stinger – only female bees are equipped with this notable appendage. On one occasion I mistakenly grabbed a female carpenter bee and learned the awesome power of this appendage. If for some strange reason you choose to handle large carpenter bees, please be certain that they are indeed carpenter bees and not bumble bees, and only handle the he bee and not the she bee.

Bumble bees have a hairy abdomen, carpenter bees do not. The male carpenter bee has a white patch on his face and the female’s face is entirely black. A male foraged on a lower blossom until he spotted a female foraging just above, and then both appeared to have other business on their minds as they raced away.

Another observation regarding behaviors of carpenter bees and bumble bees comes at the close of the work day. Industrious bumble bee workers usually return to their nest at dusk with the final loads of nectar and pollen to fatten-up any future queens and drones that might still be developing in the nest. But unlike bumble bees, with the approach of nightfall large carpenter bees often remain behind on blossoms to snooze. With no nest to provision or hungry future royals to feed, it is no surprise to find sleepy carpenters resting on flowers in the early light of dewy autumn mornings. One of their favorite resting spots in my garden is a patch of catmint. Members of the mint family are renowned for their ability to attract a variety of pollinating insects, in addition to their medicinal qualities. Perhaps, the lazy behavior of my carpenter bees is related not only to the nighttime chill that cools their bodies, but also to some soporific chemical found in the nectar of mint. Who knows?

When the killing frost finally puts an end to my autumn bloomers, the last of the carpenter bees will enter their vacated brood galleries, not to return until next spring. On a cool autumn morning, take an early trip to the garden to visit the newly minted class of 2019 carpenter bees. 

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks MPT, University of Maryland Master Gardeners, and the Howard Conservancy for providing the inspiration for this episode. The really cool bee book “The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees” by J. S. Wilson and O.M. Carril was used as a resource for this episode.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

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