Carpenter Bees – Sneaky
Music; Ambience: carpenter bee
JM: Bees have a reputation of being noble, cooperative creatures, but if you watch them very closely, you’ll see that some bees engage in artifice and deception. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Biologist Mike Orlove spends a lot of time observing carpenter bees and he says that sometimes bees are downright sneaky. He once videotaped a female carpenter bee as she pretended to protect another bee’s home.
MO: “She served as a guard in the other bee’s nest but the moment the other bee was gone, she would forage the other bee’s pollen stash as if it was a flower… rolling in it, and drinking nectar from it to loosen the pollen… and then trundling it off to the opposite end of the nest and incorporating it into her own brood cells.”
JM: When the queen returned, this bee would go back to guarding the entrance, and the queen would then steal back the purloined pollen. In another case of deceptive behavior, Orlove says that a female carpenter bee will sometimes disguise herself as a male.
MO: “The male has big yellow spot in the middle of his forehead that distinguishes him from the female who has a black face. And orioles and crows learn very quickly that they can eat these yellow faced bees without getting stung, because the male lacks a stinging apparatus.”
JM: Sometimes when a male bee that typically guards the nest is away, a female bee may disguise herself and take up his position.
MO: “A female will go out and get yellow pollen on her face, so she looks remarkably male-like, and then hover like a territorial male.”
JM: And then, any bird that approaches the nest may get a nasty surprise, because the female carpenter bee can sting.
MO: “The only reason that I can think this happens is to train the birds not to go after the males.”
JM: Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.