- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
A good time to photograph the European wool carder bee is in the early morning when it's warming its muscles to prepare for flight.
It lies perfectly still.
That's what it did in our yard last weekend. It warmed itself on the sunny side of a leaf.
Not unlike the sunny side of a street...
The European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum), so named because the female "cards" or collects plant material to line her nest, is a relative newcomer to the United States. UC Davis research entomologist Tom Zavortink of the Bohart Museum of Entomology says it was accidentally introduced into New York State before 1963.
Writing in a 2008 edition of the Pan-Pacific Entomologist, Zavortink and fellow entomologist Sandra Shanks now of Port Townsend, Wash., pointed out that several papers “have documented its spread from neighboring areas in the northeastern United States and southern Canada” and that the species has since crossed the country. It was confirmed in Colorado in 2005, Missouri in 2006, and Maine, Michigan, Maryland and California (Sunnyvale) in 2007, the entomologists wrote.
The bee is mostly black and yellow. At first glance, its stark markings remind you of a yellowjacket. The females, about the size of a worker honey bee, range in body length from 11 to 13 millimeters, while the males are 14 to 17 mm.
The males can be aggressive in defending their territory, sometimes body-slamming honey bees and other insects to the ground.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says that this kind of contact has a purpose. The male wool carder bee is "merely defending its territory from honey bees and other flying insects to keep the area free of potential competitors that might interfere with its mating opportunities," he says.
One thing's for sure: they do move fast!
Except in the early morning when they're warming their flight muscles...