very big bees

treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)September 10, 2009

The past couple of weeks I've been noticing some extremely large bees around my gardens, not visiting flowers, just flying around bumping into things.

Today I looked out and there were dozens of them, mostly around a large TX sage that's in bloom. I only saw one of them light on a flower, though. The rest acted like they were drunk, or maybe blind. I could hear them crashing into the siding from inside my house. These guys were big. And they were making a buzzy noise. None of them stayed put long enough for me to see any detail, but I didn't notice any yellow on them.

Can anyone figure out from this what type of bee they might have been, and tell me if they're likely to be at all aggressive. One of these days I'm going to have to mow out there. Tia -- Carol

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catherinet(5 IN)

Is it possible that its a bunch of carpenter bees? Are they drilling around your house anywhere? Look up California Carpenter Bee and see if it looks like yours.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 7:56PM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

I haven't seen any signs of drilling. Our siding is cement board, but the under side of the house is entirely accessible.

Photos of the type of carpenter bee that's found in Texas (Xylocopa virginica) look like their upper bodies are gold colored. The size looks right, though. I'll have to find my binoculars an try to get a better look at them.

Thanks, Catherine.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 8:49PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

Just a guess, and it's not worth much since I know SQUAT about what you might have flying about down there in Texas, but you might try looking up robber flies, especially the "bee killers" such as "Sacken's bee hunter".

There are several varieties of robber fly and although a lot of them are rather hard to confuse with bees of any kind, the ones that mimic bees can do it so well you have to get a second look to be sure what you are seeing.
You may very well be having a situation with some kind of true bee, but your description sounds very much like what goes on here when the hummingbird feeders go up: the honeybees move in , and then the bee hunters show up and stake out the feeders. After eating so many bees they just get all goofy acting and not too skilled at navigation. They seem almost sick or drunk, bump into stuff and make a sound like a crop duster. They seem happiest just perched on a leaf looking out where they can scan the skies for prey flying past. If you do indeed have bee mimics, they have simply figured out that your flowering sage is drawing bees and is a good place to set up a drive-thru.

As far as any danger is concerned, if you are dealing with robberfly mimics, then you can relax. Unless you are an unfortunate bee or other targeted insect, they are harmless and actually quite fascinating to look at up close. If you are patient enough you can even nudge them onto a finger much like you would a butterfly.

Trouble is, you say you don't notice any or much yellow on your critters. And also the fact that you are seeing TONS of them. Most of our robberfly mimics have at least a bit of yellow, even the ones that look like a supersized bumble bee. And although I see lots of them, it's never been in close densities but rather spaced out around the yard. I guess this is my disclaimer then...if you look up the robberflies and the bee mimics and still don't see anything that fits, don't go trying to poke one onto a finger! :)

    Bookmark   September 12, 2009 at 1:55PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

this might get you started anyway. Despite the fact that it's dealing with FLorida insects, you might just see something.

Also...caught a glimpse along the way to this link of someone saying not to "trifle" with them, which I take to mean SOMEONE has had a bad experience of some kind, perhaps being bitten?? I did not take the time to read that entry, but suffice to say I've been handling them--though CAUTIOUSLY and RESPECTFULLY as you should with any creature--for years without incident.

I consider them fscinating...have a good long look if you like.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2009 at 2:12PM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

They were out there again the other day and I tried to get a better look at one... have to say that I didn't see any yellow on them at all. Could be the M. nigra possibly.

We got lots of rain yesterday and this morning. I was just outside pruning things and something came buzzing by and stung me on the jaw. Didn't see it coming--and didn't try to follow it--but it doesn't feel as bad as a wasp sting, though it is swelling a little. Didn't see any of the unidentified 'bees' today at all.

I may call the county extension office and see what they think.

Thanks, dirtgirl. Animals that mimic other critters & other things are interesting.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2009 at 5:06PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

One personal favorite mimic here in our area is a spider that runs along with the ants. It's rather small, reddish, and since it moves as fast as they do, the only quick way to tell the difference are the little behavioral quirks.

I've even spotted cow killer mimics before, which are black and red striped spiders that are a DANG good look-alike, even waving their pointy abdomens up and down periodically.

But I also love the camo experts, especially the ones that glue things to themselves. Like the looper caterpillar that had stuck bits of petals and leaves to itself and was hiding out on the coneflower head. OR those tiny little things (can't tell you what they are because I can't find them in the books) on our trees that creep around on the bark with bits of lichen glued on. THe minute they freeze they just melt away into the background.

How does something that small and seemingly insignificant know that it is vulnerable the way it looks and in order to rectify the situation it needs to ATTACH things to itself, and not just anything but the right stuff in order to blend??

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 12:20PM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

How does something that small and seemingly insignificant know that it is vulnerable the way it looks and in order to rectify the situation it needs to ATTACH things to itself...

But that's not how it works, is it? I thought it was mostly about chance mutations and natural selection. Let's say I live in the tropics and I'm born with a freak compulsion to drape white cloth over my head. It turns out that gives me a better chance to survive and reproduce than my neighbor, who was born with a mutant urge to balance pieces of black cast iron on her head. Therefore succeeding generations, who have inherited my compulsions, tend to wear white hats. And my neighbor dies of heat stroke with a black kettle on her head, before she has any children.

Of course humans can use reason to change their behavior in ways that increase or decrease their chances of survival. But most bugs don't think things through, do they?

What boggles my mind is the countless mutations that occur and die out because they aren't helpful.

Or have I've been thinking about all this the wrong way?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 5:46PM
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I don't know that the previous poster meant "know" in the same sense that you are thinking they did. Birds "know" to migrate. Some animals "know" when they should hibernate, and animal mothers "know" how to take care of their young when they are born.

I think maybe the poster meant for us to take the phrase in this way, and it made sense to me. Also, it expressed very well to me the wonders of the natural world.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 8:17PM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

Oh, I'm sure you're right chickadeemelrose (Melrose MA, by any chance?). I'm sorry, dirtgirl. Please forgive.

BTW, I'm pretty sure now that these are carpenter bees, as catherinet suggested. Guess I'll be mowing at night with a flashlight the rest of the year.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 9:24AM
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Good luck with the bee situation. Do be careful. You may end up not wanting to mow your lawn, so don't rule out getting expert help where you live.

And yes, I'm in Melrose, MA!


    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 1:21PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

no apology necessary whatsoever, treelover.
In fact, thank you for bringing up valuable details on the issue of natural selection and "how things work". Trouble is, now I can't stop smiling at this mental image in my brain of some lady in say, Trinidad, walking around with my grandma's old chicken-frying skillet on her head. You put that there, you know! :)

At any rate, I have tried to read through texts detailing the biology of it all, the DNA interactions, the role of environment alongside evolution and so on, and I have to confess it wears me out. It's not that I argue with anything in the steady flow of new findings, it's just that the subject matter, while valuable and enlightening, is interesting but not engrossing to me.
Yes, I try to read up and stay current, but to me it's sometimes refreshing to just wander the woods quietly, seeing marvelous little interactions and adaptations without always trying to dissect and explain.
I know when a spider spins a web it's chemicals and enzymes and firing neurons--millions of years of tweaking things to get to this point, but sometimes you just need to sit there and separate the science from the "seeing" and enjoy it.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 2:17PM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

Ha! Yes, I know what you mean by it wearing you out, trying to wrap your mind around some of this stuff. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I've got the whole business backwards since I doodled and daydreamed my way through biology class. I wonder if really understanding the processes thoroughly would take some of the awesomeness out of it.

Donna: I used to spend summers with an aunt & uncle who lived on E. Foster St. I have lots of happy memories of Melrose.

Thanks all, for your help with my bee problem.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 9:15PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

and about the bees...if they are carpenters then you really should not have to tread too carefully. We have them (the eastern variety) drilling holes left and right in the beams of the old machine shed where we work on our farm machinery and despite all that banging and dust and commotion only the males come up close to check us out, and they only do so becuase they are hoping we are female bees. When I get bored I will even toss rocks up in the air close by just to watch them chase them to the ground. They want a lady friend worse than anything!
And if you are still not sure, try MIL would be scared of the bee on the label of a jar of honey and yet she fearlessly runs her mowers right there around the same area. Unless your Texas varieties are a flightier bunch, I'd say you have little to fear if you are dealing with carpenters.

As a footnote..I'd be happy to trade your critters for the ones I ran into today. Went back in our woods to check on the pawpaws and was strolling very casually and clumsily past an old tree where the barred owls raised chicks this spring. Something whizzed past my face a time or two and then I heard the hum and turned to see that I was about three feet from a solid mass of giant hornets that had papered up a lower hollow part of the owl's dead tree, right at chest level. THere were hundreds of them, and several scouts were on tippytoes watching my approach. I will never know why they did not let me have it right there, but I backed my little self right on out of there and watched as a single individual chased my cat up a tree. I had my digital camera along and was set to record nature encounters...I had to erase that bit of video later because I was unaware how many times I had repeated the Oh Sh--T! line. I was pretty excited...and lucky.

THey are welcome there and I shall keep a more respectable distance.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 2:55AM
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dirtgirl and everyone else on this post: I'm just sittin' up here in Southeastern Michigan enjoying the dickens out of your tales of bees and spiders and the nature you encounter in your everyday lives. These Garden Web forums are just the berries for bringing us all closer together in our love of nature. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 12:18AM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

Patann, those are very kind words and they are appreciated.
I wish there were more people who could live and let live. Later yesterday while on my bike ride I stopped off at a neighbor's to see the fish he had just caught. While there, a yellowjacket was buzzing the cooler of fish and this turned the conversation to bees. I told him about the giant hornets and he then told me his own story, about recently being back in the woods somewhere and coming across a nest of bumblebees in the ground. He hiked all the way back to the house after a can of gas and some matches in order to burn them out. I asked him if the nest was in a high traffic area or around houses and he said no, and I then asked why he did not just keep it in mind, maybe mark the spot somehow and avoid that area and call it a truce. He gave me one of those "aren't you from around here?" looks I am so used to getting anymore and just kind of went on to other things. Unless there are children around or they are in a bad spot for sure encounters, I honestly believe "dangerous" creatures just aren't, when given their due respect and space. Bees and poisonous snakes...I'll bet more bad times happen when humans deliberately "gotta get rid of 'em" than when they are casually encountered and then left well enough alone. If someone were to come along and try to force a flammable fluid and a lit match down my throat, or whack me over the head with a stick, I would do my level best to mess him up.
My dad was one of those "take action now" people, which has always puzzled me, since my love for the wild things comes directly from the times I spent with him. Dad once found a yellowjacket nest out in the woods where we used to live. It had obviously been there a while, judging by the sheer volumes of addled but angry insects that came out from under that running push mower he shoved over their hole. I guess in theory the idea seemed like a good one at the time, as the whirring blades would surely chop them up as they left the hole. I am certain some did die, but the reality of it was that many many more of the bees were simply spit out the side in an accelerated stream. Of course we had taken up what we smugly figured were safe positions to observe our plan in action, and soon realized things were not going according to plan as there were bees behind us, between us, everywhere, and they WERE NOT DEAD. We retreated to the house and then had to explain to mom why the pushmower was fired up and sitting out in the middle of the woods... there wasn't even grass out there. I don't remember who finally dragged the mower back into the yard, but it sat there running all afternoon until it ran out of gas and even after that point it was left for a while.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 1:05PM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

Too true, dirtgirl. I don't particularly want outdoor critters in my house, but if I can remove them without doing them any harm that's my first choice. I figure they're as entitled to the outdoors as I am and I'll just go around them if they're unfriendly. Nothing makes me more nervous than being around a person who goes into hysterics or leaps into violent action at the sight of . . . say, a honey bee.

DH found the binoculars and it didn't take long to figure out that my 'bees' aren't bees at all. Nope, they're some kind of beetle. I went out and took some pictures. They're quite beautiful.

(Click on thumbnails for a larger image.)

I found one on a branch. Look at the cute little antennae!    Â

The second photo's kind of fuzzy cause it was trying to get away & the wind was blowing a little, but it shows a little of the underside which was very bronze colored...metallic when the light hit it right.Â

It fell to the ground and spent at least a minute trying to get airborne. Those dark things are wings that he's trying to get working. He (she?) finally did take off.

Then I found one that had died and was able to get better pictures.

And the underside.

Can anyone identify them? I thought maybe some kind of chafer, but these don't have the triangular section on the top that rose chafers are supposed to. They do buzz when flying.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 8:12PM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

dirtgirl: I just reread your post about the yellow jackets & the push mower. Wow. It must have been terrifying at the time, but it sure makes a funny story now! I'd like to know one thing . . . how much trouble was your dad in when you all got home???

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 9:23PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this, but male carpenter bees don't sting. Only the queen stings.
I, too, could listen to Dirtgirl's stories all the time!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 5:40PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

I just don't know how to say this. THis is just so hard, but I need to put it out here. Maybe I should not, because its' so personal and the internet is not so safe...

My dad died unexpectedly a few days ago . It can't be really happening. To say I think I'm dreaming is terribly cliche but that's about the sum of it. Cathy Cathy Cathy.... I need to write you and tell you everythin and how much I appreciate your constant supportbut its too raw right now.

Just have to simply state that when you read anything that comes from these fingertips he is indirectly involved and I feel like my muse is silent now. Any time something new happened, almost on a daily basis, the first person I called was Dad. A thousand mundane snake stories and he wanted details of each one. Just about every phone call I ever had with him started with him saying "do you have any new animal stories for me?" THats just gone now. A pretty impressive wolf spider showed up in the middle of the living room the day of his visitation, family scattering everywhere, and I could just hear him telling me how impossible it would be to chase it down wearing heels, while turning and whispering proudly to someone, "you watch, she'll catch it anyway!" see, Even now now it's easier for me to cope like Im living in some warped sitcom with a bad laugh track that to accept that he's really not coming back.

So I am thankful for the praise you put out there for the stuff I write, but nothing was as precious as recalling my accounts for him.

now who will I call?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 1:58AM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

I'm sad for you, dirtgirl.

I'm sure because you're reeling now, it seems like your muse is gone. But believe me . . . he remains with you, internalized, and you'll continue to hear his voice.

Maybe a journal would help--a poor substitute for being able to speak to him directly, but a way to continue the conversation.

I'm so very sorry for your loss.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 2:54PM
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Dirtgirl: I usually go on the Hot Pepper and container gardening forum but love animals and birds. I wanted to offer you my condolences on your father. When you want to feel the closest to him do anything that he loved to do....or eat something he loved to eat....he sounded like a wonderful is very hard to lose your father...I lost mine in 1996 and it is like it happened just yesterday. I felt compelled to write something to you and to tell you only time makes the pain go away. I am truly sorry for your loss. The gap will always be there but he is truly buried in the memories that you have deep in your heart and soul.



    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 7:07PM
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Dear Dirtgirl,

I am so very sorry for your loss. When people are so much a part of your life you are blessed, but when they are no longer here it is so difficult, words cannot express.

As previous posters have said, though, even though your dad isn't "here" in the usual sense, he IS with you, all the time, in your heart and in your memory. My dad, like yours, appreciated nature so much and loved talking about it with me. I still remember him teaching me about fox tracks in the snow. And a number of months after he died, and I was missing him so much, I was out for a walk and seemingly out of nowhere, a hawk appeared and circled over me, slowly, and it felt like a sign. The hawk was so beautiful, and that is what my dad really had taught me - the beauty of the natural world.

This will happen for you too. I know the pain is too raw for you right now to think this way, but hang on to your memories and write if you can, as treelover suggested.
Writing your thoughts and memories will help heal your heart and will probably sometimes make you laugh too.

Peace and comfort to you - you are not alone.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 7:48AM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

I'm an optimist, a joker, a goofball. I don't know how to handle this weight and for now it's easier to just run away from it, totally immerse myself in other trivial things. I have been trying my best to help mom in any way possible but it feels so much better to just be somewhere else, act like I'm fine. I know experiencing guilt is part of the process but dang....

today is his birthday. He would have been 75 and we had spent the last two weeks planning a surprise party. THe night before he died I had a picture of him --which was taken at my wedding --cropped and downsized to put in the paper along with a clandestine announcement of the upcoming party. 12 hours later I was scrapping those plans and instead writing his obit to go under that picture. Talk about words not wanting to come.

I know I have so much to be thankful for...he did not suffer a bit...but I have selfish reasons to cry.

but thank you for the kind words.
ill be ok at my own pace, just deep breath, count to three.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 12:43AM
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