Majestic Metallic - Peacock Carpenter Bee


When you think of bees the most recognisable image is the European honey bee with its black and yellow stripes.  But with more than 20,000 distinct bee species around the world, there is some room for variety.


Take the Peacock Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa bombylans) for example no black and yellow stripes for this bee.  Instead it has a metallic blue-green, purple or green colour which changes depending on the angle you are looking at it. It has the colours you associated with a peacock. Males have additional white marking. The peacock carpenter bee is a large stocky bee ranging in size from 1.6cm to 1.8cm. It has a loud but low pitched buzz sound.  



Male Peacock Carpenter Bee image by Teale Britstra, Source: Flickr



They belong to the carpenter bee family because of their nesting behavior (nearly all species of carpenter bees burrow into hard plant material such as dead wood or bamboo). The Peacock Carpenter Bee makes its nest by hollowing out stalks of grasstrees or soft wood like Banksia, Casuarina (ironwoods), Melaleuca (paperbarks) and Leptospermum (tee tree).


Female Peacock Carpenter Bee image by Teale Britstra, Source: Flickr


Female Peacock carpenter bees will excavate a tunnel with their jaws, and pick up and then dumps the wood shavings outside.  They can make the hollow 30cm by about 10-15mm in diameter.  If the piece of wood is large enough it can allow for multiple tunnels and several female bees may use it for a nest.  That way they can work as a team and while one bee is breeding the other bees guard. The tunnels are sectioned off into brood cells which get sealed after an egg is laid inside.  Each egg gets its own supply of nectar and pollen which has been rolled up into a moist ball.  That way when the egg hatches the larvae can eat the food balls and pupate.  


Peacock Carpenter Bee image by Jenny Thynne, Source: Flickr

The Peacock Carpenter Bee can be found in Queenlsand and New South Wales. They start in North Queensland from the Cape York Peninsula and travel south along the eastern seaboard to the Sydney region.  They can be found during spring to autumn.  They commonly feed from pea flowers from the Fabaceae family. Gompholobium latifolium (golden glory pea) during the spring and Pultenaea elliptica (wreath bush-pea) during autumn.  They also pollinates the Melastoma affine (blue tongue) plant.



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