Passionate About the Passionflower Vines

Sep 6, 2013

Valley carpenter bees are passionate about passionflower vines (Passiflora).

You see these black bees foraging on the blossoms. Tiny grains of golden pollen, looking like gold dust, dot the thorax.

Their loud buzz frightens many a person, but wait, they're pollinators.

Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) are found in the Central Valley and southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and southward through Mexico, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.

These carpenter bees are large (about the size of a queen bumble bee). The females are solid black, while the males are golden/buff-colored with green eyes.  

We receive scores of calls about "golden bumble bees." They're the male Valley carpenter bees, sometimes nicknamed "Teddy bears." 

The females are the only ones we've seen in the passionflower vines, though.

The males? They must be cruising somewhere else, patrolling for females.

Most of the time we see female Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) laying their eggs on the leaves, and male Gulf Frits searching for females.