Friday, August 22, 2014

Giant Resin Bee

A loud buzzing drew my attention to activity on an Ironweed flower head.  I snuck in close to observe this foraging bee.

Hairless abdomen rules out Bumblebee.  That left me with an identification of Carpenter Bee, but this specimen just didn’t look like the Carpenter Bees I’m used to seeing around the barn and house.  The hair on the thorax was much darker and browner than a normal Carpenter Bee.  I concluded that I was observing a Giant Resin Bee, an introduced Asian species that is spreading quickly across the Eastern United States.

It was really going after the nectar in the Ironweed flowers.

At one point it slipped from the flower and hung belly up.  After a moment, it began using its front legs to rub the ventral side of its thorax.

A few seconds later it slipped farther down and at one point was holding on by a single hind leg.  It squirmed back-and-forth much like a dog will do when it finds something particularly stinky to roll in.  I figured it was in the clutches of either a crab spider or an ambush bug.  I moved in to see if I could spot the predator.

As I leaned closer, the bee snapped back upright and gave me a threatening look.  Whatever its strange behavior had been, it had nothing to do with being snared by a predator.

I pulled back slightly and the bee resumed its foraging.  I’ve never observed a bee that moved so clumsily about on the flowers.  It fumbled around like it had six left feet.  Here it made a belly flop on the flower with its legs hanging free on either side.  Eventually it flew off.  This was an interesting encounter, but I’m never thrilled to add another non-native species to my list of Blue Jay Barrens residents.


  1. The Wikipedia article on this kind of bee mentions a "swimming-like motion" when it visits flowers and pollinates them. Perhaps that is the behavior that you observed. As far as it being a non-native species—so is the common honeybee.

  2. Hi, Victorian Barbarian. That may be exactly what this bee was doing. Thanks for the information.
    Honey Bees are indeed a non-native species, but many people seem unaware of this fact. I get especially irked when someone tries to tell me that loss of the Honey Bee would result in the collapse of the North American ecosystem. When I ask them how the ecosystem survived prior to the introduction of Honey Bees 400 years ago, I just get a blank stare.