Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Carpenter Bee and Blond Mantis

Carpenter bee
Morning must be the time to photograph bees. Apparently the same ones that I couldn't photograph the other evening were slower this morning and I was able to get a shot. I am not an able identifier of insects, but the husband is much better and he said that my photo showed a carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica).

These bees make homes in outdoor wooden structures by drilling a hole into the wood. The eggs are laid in chambers that are divided by grasses. There is a blob of pollen and stuff put in for the larva to eat. After maturing they chew through the grass walls and exit the tunnel/hive. According to Wikipedia, that is one of the reasons woodpeckers make holes in wooden structures. They are finding the carpenter bee larva. Russ says he has read that these bees sting. I have been stung by many different kinds of wasps and bees but never one of these that I knew of. They are distinguished from bumble bees by their shiny black abdomens.

Every country boy has their favorite getting stung story. Country girls do too. One of my favorite ones involved a hippie friend who was singing during her outdoor wedding and a wasp flew into her mouth. She opened her mouth to sing the next word and the wasp flew out. Crazy story, but I believe her. Most getting stung stories involve pain, swelling, and emergency removal of clothing. My worst incident was the disruption of a yellow jacket hive in a compost pile. The yellow jackets (genera Vespula) chased me 100 feet, repeatedly stinging my neck, face, scalp, and arms. They followed me into and through the house and into a bathroom and two of them made it inside the bathroom with me. Not fun, but I survived.

I don't dislike or fear stinging insects even though I don't enjoy getting stung. My dad was extremely allergic to stings and had to be very careful around wasps. Yellow jackets are predators so I don't mind having them in the garden, not to build their nests, but to eat smaller pests that feed on my plants.

Blond Praying Mantis
Another ferocious insect predator I am looking forward to seeing again is the praying mantis (Mantoididae family). Their alert alien face among my plants lets me know that my biological pest controls are at work. This golden colored mantis was photographed last fall which may account for the blond coloring. The mantis is easy to photograph. They love to sit still until their next meal comes along, then watch out! They are fast. They are cool, but a tiny bit creepy. Insects that can sting or look scary, they can be useful too.

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