“I’ve got black bumblebees buzzing around our backyard like crazy,” the caller said. “They’re loud. Very loud. They’re dive-bombing and scaring the cat and dog. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
The unwelcome visitors were not bumblebees. They were carpenter bees.
Carpenter bees? No, they don’t know how to read blueprints or frame floors and walls. They nest in weathered wood, like your fence posts, utility poles or firewood. They tunnel into your deck, railing, shingles and shutters.
They are pests. But they’re also pollinators.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, professor emeritus at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, fields many calls about carpenter bees.
This one pictured below is a male carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex Smith NB, Thorp says.
“It is stealing nectar from the base of the flower. They also spend a lot of time cruising around chasing everything that enters their territory.”
Contrary to popular opinion, carpenter bees don’t consume wood. If you don’t want them around, paint or varnish your wood. You can also plug their (unoccupied) holes with steel wool or caulk, or screen the holes so they don’t return.
The female and male carpenter bees that nectar the salvia (sage) in our bee friendly garden are about the size of bumblebees. “Robust” comes to mind. Okay, fat. They’re fat.
Their abdomens are bare and a shiny black. If you photograph them, you’ll see your own reflection. It’s like seeing your reflection in a black Lamborghini.
The female carpenter bees are a solid black, while the male carpenter bees are lightly colored around the head.
In comparison, bumblebees have hairy abdomens with at least some yellow markings.
If I were a carpenter and you were a…nah, I’d rather be a bumblebee./o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>
Ouch! So, you’ve been stung by a bee.
If you’re a beekeeper, an occasional sting is a natural part of beekeeping.
UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen says that the average beekeeper may be stung approximately 3000 times a year.
Mussen describes the sting as a “modified egg-laying apparatus, so only females can sting.” The queen bee can sting multiple times, while the female worker bee dies after stinging. Drones, or male bees, cannot sting. (Interesting that Jerry Seinfeld, who played the role of Barry B. Benson in The Bee Movie, could sting! Then again, he was a "pollen jock," too. However, only the worker bees (females) gather nectar and pollen.)
When bees sting, they inject a venom that can be temporarily painful. The pain may last a few minutes but may be felt up to a few days later.
How do you remove the stinging apparatus? “It doesn’t matter how you get it out as long as you remove it as soon as possible, within 45 to 60 seconds,” Mussen says. “Otherwise, venom will keep pumping into the body.”
He advises victims to "pull out or scrape off the sting (which some people call a “stinger”) with a fingernail. The sting is barbed. The sting also emits an alarm pheromone that marks the target for additional stings. Leave the area quickly.”
Some advise that you wash the wound and treat it with ice or a cold compress to alleviate the pain. Or, apply an aerosol or cream antihistamine preparation that contains a skin coolant. The important point: don’t scratch the itch as that could lead to an infection, Mussen says.
If you’re stung on the neck or mouth, or start feeling severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately, he says.
Allergic responses include hives, swelling, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and headaches. Life-threatening reactions—which require immediate medical intervention—include shock, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, unconsciousness, and a laryngeal blockage resulting from swelling in the throat.
“Only about one or two people out of 1000 are allergic or hypersensitive to bee stings,” the UC Davis apiculturist says.
To avoid being stung:
- Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
- Wear light-colored clothing. Bees are more likely to sting black or red objects.
- Don’t wear perfume, cologne or scented soaps.
- Avoid going barefoot.
- Remain calm if you’re stung. Don’t flail your arms at the bee; movement attracts more stings.
- Remove bees from a swimming pool before entering the pool.
I've always loved the wit and wisdom of insect-inspired poets.
God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.
- - Richard Vaughan
If you look at the world through a viewfinder--as I have a habit of doing--it’s a wonderful, exquisite place, especially if you capture critters in their natural habitat. They don’t complain when you make them look fat, skinny, nice or ferocious.
Blow flies, honey bees, carpenter bees, spotted cucumber bees, the ten-lined June beetle, and mosquitoes all appear in my viewfinder. Okay, I know. We’re not supposed to like some of these pests (such as the carpenter bees, spotted cucumber bees and the ten-lined June beetles), but hey, all of them are pretty enough to sing the national anthem at the Olympics.
Photography, or writing with light, is just that. Writing with light. Back before the digital technology age, we used to process film, make prints and then hang them out to dry. We "pho-togs" marinated ourselves in Dektol, DK-60 and Hypo.
Our "pheromone" wasn't always appreciated. But the images were.
But the images were.
Bees are black, with gilt surcingles,
Buccaneers of buzz.
- - Emily Dickinson
The mosquito is the state bird of
- - Andy Warhol
When the California State Fair, Sacramento, opens Friday, Aug. 15 for an 18-day run, don't miss "California's Gold" and "Nature's Gallery" in the UC Davis Centennial Pavilion (Building 3).
The 6,000-square-foot pavilion will showcase what the university is all about, from its toddler stages to its teenage years to today. It's the university on parade, with one million visitors vying for curbside seats.
What are "California's Gold" and "Nature's Gallery?" Think insects. Think art. Think of a fusion of science and arts. In fact, both projects are part of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, directed by UC Davis entomologist Diane Ullman and artist Donna Billick. It's a program where students merge with faculty, staff and community members to create art.
"California's Gold" is a 3x5-foot ceramic mosaic of the state, depicting California's flora and fauna, including the California poppy, quail, trout and salmon, as well as some of our major agriculture crops--dairy cows, honey bees, almonds, grapes, garlic and olives.
"Nature's Gallery" is a spectacular mosaic mural depicting plants and insects on ceramic tiles. (Note that not all of the massive "Nature's Gallery" will be there; just a part of it.) The exhibit drew 300,000 visitors when it was displayed last summer at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Capitol Mall, Washington, D.C. Eventually the work will be installed in the Ruth Storer Garden, UC Davis Arboretum.
"California's Gold" is going places, too. Following its display at the Aug. 15-Sept. 1 state fair, off it goes for temporary display in Cong. Mike Thompson's office in Washington, D.C.
Ullman and Billick said UC Davis students' creative energy and talents sparked both "California's Gold" and "Nature's Gallery," but we all know that Ullman and Billick are the driving forces. They are amazing innovators who fuse science with art and make their projects both fun and creative. They founded the Art/Science Fusion Program, which is housed in Science and Society, UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
So, it's not surprising that Ullman, an entomology professor and associate dean for undergradaute academic programs at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, received a top faculty award this year: the 2008 Chancellor's Achievement Award for Diversity and Community.
Ullman creates communities of learning, said Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor for Campus Community Relations, and she encourages students "to learn in creative ways, discover new careers, and engage in their campus and community."
Very well said. Very well said, indeed.
See you at the fair!
I'm standing in line at the photo center, waiting to pay for the dozen 8x10 photos of noted entomologist Richard Bohart that I’d ordered for his UC Davis memorial.
“Doc,” as he was called, died Feb. 1, 2007 in
He was a giant of a man. He towered over his fellow linebackers on the UC Berkeley football team in the mid-1930s, and he towered over his entomology colleagues.
During his career, Doc identified more than a million mosquitoes and wasps, named more than 300 new species of insects, authored 230 separate publications and wrote six books on mosquitoes and wasps, including three editions of Mosquitoes of California. An entire family of insects bears his name: Bohartillidae (twisted wing parasites), genus Bohartilla.
Doc founded the Bohart Museum of Entomology in 1946, the same year he joined the UC Davis faculty. Today the museum, a tribute to much of his lifelong work, houses more than 7 million specimens.
So, here I am, standing in line, thinking of his accomplishments and the passion that drove him and the insects that possessed him.
The photo center line shortens and it’s my turn. I pay for the photos. “Thanks!" I say. "Nice job! These are of the life of Dr. Bohart, a world-renowned entomologist.”
The clerk, probably in her 30s, looks at me, puzzled. “What,” she asks, “is en-to-mol-ogy?”
She quickly apologizes, saying she ought to know that.
“Study of insects,” I say.
Her question is not unusual. Many folks have no idea what entomology is, which is probably why it should be called “insect science.”
Nancy Dullum, administrative assistant in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, says she’s often asked what entomology means and how it’s spelled. A UC Davis employee since 1977 (25 years in entomology, including 13 years with the UC Mosquito Research Program, and five years in the dean’s office in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), she’s even opened mail addressed to “Department of Antomology.”
Antomology! Now that’s creative!
I think “Doc” would have liked that.