I was trying to think of an idea for a story this week, when I suddenly heard what sounded like an Apache helicopter and a huge buzzing idea came nose diving out of the sky and reverberated past my ear.
It was one of what lots of people call ‘Dive Bombers’ (you can understand why). They are these huge, black, bee-like creatures that come out in the spring and join the busy honey bees, humming loudly as they go about their business of collecting pollen and tickling flowers.
I’ll be honest, I’m always a little bit nervous about buzzy things, ever since that one time when I got a hornet stuck in my hair (my hair is good at collecting things like that) and damn, do those things pack a punch. I felt like I had been in a round with Mike Tyson. (I’m just saying that for emphasis. I don’t actually know, I’ve never gotten Mike Tyson stuck in my hair.) Mohammed Ali should have said “Float like a butterfly, sting like a - hornet”.
So, it’s hardly surprising that when I hear those Bee-52’s coming towards me I normally panic. I don’t think they are going to hurt me, and presumably they are just mistaking me for a flower. Which is very flattering.. but it doesn’t make the experience any less terrifying. I normally become a sort of ‘grateful ninja’ - and wave my hands about wildly, while shouting “thank you!”. Such mixed messages, they must think I’m a flower playing hard to get.
Anyway, the idea that bombilated down towards me was this: To find out once and for all just exactly who these Buzz Lightyears think they are?
Because lots of people say that they aren’t a bee at all and just a harmless beetle? This turns out not to be true. I did some research, a.k.a, asked the ‘down to earth’ members of the ‘Gardening in Portugal’ Facebook group if they knew? Of course, they did, and I can now reveal that they are none other than the Violet Carpenter Bee, ‘Abelha Carpinteira’ in Portuguese, and ‘Xylocopa Violacea’ in Latin.
Violet Carpenter Bees Xylocopa violacea
They are called Carpenters, not because they are always humming:
“I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation and the only explanation I can find is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around is that your love’s put me at the top of the world.”
But who knows, maybe they are? They are definitely humming something...
But it’s also because they like to burrow into wood or bamboo to lay their eggs.
Also, they are not harmless (at least the females aren’t). They can sting. Which is good. It’s good to be a little dangerous. I mean, who would take them seriously otherwise? Well, I might do, they are massive and sound like fighter-bombers on an air raid. However, as their name suggests - they are ‘violet’, not ‘violent’ (they might look black, but if you look carefully they have a violet tinge) which means they are super mellow dudes who, unless you really provoke them (or get them stuck in your hair?) will just get on with their daily business of pollinating every bloomin’ thing around. Arguably the most important job on the planet. Actually no. No arguing. It is.
Before anyone panics about the occasional small damage these bees do to soft wood, read this article. https://www.buzzaboutbees.net/carpenter-bees.html If you paint or treat exposed wood, they'll usually leave it alone. DO NOT kill any bees. It's because of the ill-informed (can I say ignorant without incurring the "community's" wrath?) use of toxic chemicals in Portugal that so many honeybees have died, and other species have moved into their evolutionary niche to fill the gap. We need all pollinators, otherwise all land plant life and all of us who depend on them (that's just about all of us, barring sea life) will perish. Please tell your neighbours who use chemicals to educate themselves about the dangers and try organic alternatives. Insects are not our enemies. We are theirs.
By Judith Carol Irwin from Beiras on 01 Apr 2021, 17:42