Your Typical Bobble-head Bee

The small carpenter bee is, as the name implies, a small sized carpenter bee. It is quite cute in appearance, with a huge head, small body, and huge eyes. The huge, swollen looking head on the triangular second segment of the bee makes it look like a cute bobble-head doll.

These little bees excavate nests in piles of broken or burned plant twigs and stems using their mandibles (jaws). Females overwinter as adults in excavated stems. During the spring, she will use this location to raise her young. When the time comes, the female collects pollen and nectar to form “bee bread” (a fermented mixture of bee saliva, plant pollen, and nectar used for food for bee larvae). The female lays an egg on the bee bread and caps off the cell that will house the larvae with chewed up plant material. Several cells will be laid out end-to-end within one hollowed out stem.

The stem will be filled with cells that have an egg or larvae with a food provision. The cell at the very top of the stem is left empty so that the female has a place to rest and defend her nest from predators. She will remain in the nest until the young mature. It takes a while for the cells to be stacked, so the larvae at the bottom will develop first, gnawing their way up into the other cells. The problem that arises due to this is that as the oldest bee moves upward through the cells, the younger, developing bees are moved to the cells below along with debris from the oldest bee’s chewing. The younger bees then have to move the debris into the bottom cell, where the oldest bee once was. It can take eight days for the oldest bee to emerge from the stem completely-a very tedious process indeed!

The cousin of the small carpenter bee, the large carpenter bee, is not as cute and sort of a menace. It likes to chew through the wood that people make their homes out of. Compared to the large carpenter bee, the small carpenter bee can only chew through weaker material, like branches and plant stems.

A small carpenter bee, Ceratina arizonensis

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