Carpenter Ants/Bees


Carpenter Ant :

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This ant clearly has no wings, so you might wonder why it's a member of the Hymenoptera order, famous for its members having hindwings smaller than its forewings. Well, remember that ants are social insects with different castes. Queens and males are usually winged but the workers are wingless. Workers are what we usually see, and that's a worker above. In the ant world -- the Ant Family, the Formicidae -- there are fire ants, harvester ants, mound-building ants, field ants, carpenter ants such as the one above, and many others. Carpenter ants feed on dead and living insects, aphid and scale honeydew, and juices of ripe fruit -- especially sweet juices. They bore into wood when making their nests, leaving piles of sawdust-like frass outside the nests. You might be interested in the University of California's Illustrated Key to Identifying Common Household Ants. Here's part of what makes the above ant a carpenter ant:

  • it's a big ant, 1/3-inch long (9 mm)
  • there's one "node" or bump on the slender "waist" between the thorax and the abdomen
  • the thorax (the part with the "back) is smoothly arched

Large Carpenter Bee :

Family :

 Apidae (carpenter bees, bumble bees, honey bees... )

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This large bee is similar to the bumble bee, except that this species has a black spot in the middle of its back, plus its rear end is black. Bumble bees don't have the black spot, and their rear ends bear a broad, yellow band of fuzz. One neat thing about this picture is that you can see that, like all Hymenoptera with wings, it has two pairs -- four wings in all. See the smaller wings just above the big lower ones? Carpenter bees take their name from the fact that they place their nests in deep chambers in wood. They dig the chambers themselves, using their complex mouth parts to chew the wood. In the spring when they are excavating their tunnels you can find little piles of sawdust lying below where they work. In our backyards they well may decide to put a nest in a wooden picnic table, or anything built of untreated lumber! They are interesting insects, fun to watch, and won't sting unless molested.

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