This mother’s day I was at my in-laws north of Boston. Their house has an old barn that’s been converted into an in-law apartment (ironic) with a large wooden carport. (It’s used for parking boats just as often.) The wooden overhang is perfect for the nest built by carpenter bees, Xylopoca viriginica. This weekend the area around the carport was patrolled by male bees guarding their territory and there was a lot of pushing and shoving. I’m curious whether the males are in a rush this early in the year to define territories with the best nesting sites. In any case, they ignore humans completely. (Male bees are incompletely incapable of stinging.) When they’re not chasing one another, they hover and slowly rotate to survey their domain for rivals.
In other words, Xylocopa males make excellent models for action shots of bugs in the wild. Despite saying that, it took me an embarrassingly long time to get a good picture of one in flight, like this. They are adorable insects, with furry yellow bodies, big eyes, tiny expressive feet, and energetic behavior. Watching them, it was entertaining to see them stretch their legs as they hung there in mid-flight. They showed virtually no concern when a passing bird swooped down to land on the carport. We’ll be hunting for the true bumblebees, Bombus, later this summer, so it was nice to have a look at their cousins.