Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ants and Carpenter Bees

I came home from work the other evening to find a pile of debris on the front porch. Debris on the porch isn’t unusual, but I’m usually the party responsible for putting it there. This wasn’t done by my hand and to make it even more intriguing, it seemed to be moving.

The apparent movement was supplied by a mass of ants. These were one of those species of tiny black ants that are about impossible to see without magnification. What ever the stuff was, ants found it attractive.

The ants were busily breaking the large lumps into small bits.

Their food caravan went off across the porch and disappeared into a crack. I knew the colony was there. Occasionally, small conical piles of dust appear along the crack as the ants enlarge their living quarters concealed beneath the concrete slab.

As I watched the ants work, a few tiny crumbs fell from above and added to the pile. Looking up, I found that Carpenter Bees were excavating brood tunnels in the siding around the porch ceiling.

Fresh material was being pushed from the hole directly above the debris on the porch. It looked to me like it was just typical wood shavings coming out of the hole. Where was the stuff the ants were eating?

The answer came when the bee pushed the material free. The wood shavings were caught by a breeze and blown away from the porch. Heavy material, mixed in the wood shavings, fell straight down and accumulated beneath the hole. The material being eaten by the ants must be material that was collected to feed the bee larvae. Why was the bee throwing it out?

I think the whole story came together when a second Carpenter Bee showed up and tried to enter the already occupied hole. There are two holes fairly close together. I believe the left hole was begun first, followed a short time later by the right hole. The bee in the left hole finished excavating its tunnel and began to collect food material for the brood chambers. The bee in the right tunnel was still in the process of excavating, when it somehow got into the wrong hole. It continued to excavate, but the material it was taking out was the food material the other bee had put in. I folded a small grass leaf and put it in the right hole to see the hole was still being used. If a bee was using the hole, it would move the grass. The grass is still in place, so it appears that the right hole has been abandoned. It's always fun when something new and interesting is waiting for me the moment I arrive home.


  1. Very cool Steve! Great detective work.

  2. Hi Steve...Have you missed me....well I'm back!!
    I don't know what the goo~goo in Googleville have been up to, but I have been trying everything and finally figured out that if I unchecked my keep me signed box I can comment on the blogs I haven't been able gets even more confusing,but who cares as long as it works for me!!
    I have been keeping up with your post...yes I have!! I can't belive it has been so long since I last was able to comment!! One of my favorites was the Foxglove Beardtongue story!!
    It was not about snakes, spiders or any other creepy things you can come up with. lol
    Your post today is pretty the food caravan!!
    I sure would not want to have bee's over my door though since a an allergic to be stings ...last time I got bite I was in a caridiac unit for 4 hours ...not fun!
    I am so glad for you that you have such interesting life and your detective work is great as Tom has said..there sure as some amazing creatures...if we just take time to notice!!

  3. Wow, so much going on on your front porch! Fascinating.

  4. Thanks, Tom. I enjoy sleuthing.

    Hi, grammie g. I ran into the same trouble. For a while, I couldn’t even respond to comments on my own blog. I still have trouble making comments on other people’s blogs, but part of that is the slowness of my rural internet connection.
    We seem to have several species of bees or wasps living on the porch every year. I move them is they’re directly over the door, but so far no one has been stung. The Honeybee is the only one I have a serious reaction to. I was 12 the last time I got a Honeybee sting and when I recovered, the doctor told my mom it would be best if I wasn’t allowed outside. You might have figured out that I never took that advice.

    Hi, Lois. Our porch is a busy place. Sometimes there are even people out there.