Sunday, March 2, 2014

The large carpenter bee

Large Carpenter bee - Xylocopa violacea - Bomblu iswed
The large carpenter bee is the most common species of carpenter bee in. It is the largest solitary bee in Europe. Carpenter bees can be found in most parts of the world. About 500 species have been identified but only three have been recorded in the Maltese islands. They get their name because nearly all species build their nests in burrows in dead wood. The large carpenter bee prefers to build it in the giant reeds.

In Maltese the large carpenter bee it is known as bomblu iswed.

This species of carpenter bee is found mainly in southern Europe. In recent years it started to expand its range northwards probably as a result of climate change which is resulting in warmer temperatures in most parts of Europe.
In 2006 it was recorded for the first time in Wales and since then it has been recorded regularly in various localities throughout England.

In Malta the large carpenter bee is not normally active during the winter months. Adults hibernate and emerge only when the days start to warm up. This year I saw it on several days in January. I even saw several couples mating at Is-Simar Nature Reserve and looking for suitable reeds in which to build their nest. This weekend’s cold windy weather must have sent them back to hibernation.

This species has large mandibles which it used to excavate into wood. It creates a tunnel and at its end it builds a number of separate cells which it stocks with nectar and pollen. The bee lays its eggs on the pollen and then leaves the nest to allow the larvae to develop on their own.

The large carpenter bee flies with a loud buzzing sound. To those who are not familiar with it, it may seem frightening but it is not aggressive at all and will attack only if provoked. The only person I know of who has been stung by this species accidentally put his hand in the sleeve of a jacket in which a large carpenter bee was resting.

This article was published in The Times of Malta on 29 January 2014

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