Microhabitats

It was a nice surprise yesterday morning, when I stepped out into my front yard, to see the first wild turkeys since my neighbor shot the beautiful tom that was displaying there earlier this spring. And it was great to see a small black bear wander by the edge of the yard a few moments later. But I was especially excited when I stepped into the vegetable garden and spotted this little hole:

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Ever since we cut up staghorn sumac stems from the edge of the yard to use as stakes in the garden, I’d been wondering when the small carpenter bees (Apidae: Ceratina) would show up to nest in them. Unlike their cousins, the large carpenter bees (Xylocopa), instead of boring into wood, they excavate the soft pith in the centers of stems to construct their nest chambers.

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It was difficult to get a very good look into this hole, which was only 2.5 mm across, but this shot clearly shows a shiny metallic bee butt and the tips of some wings.

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Here is a better look at a small carpenter bee I found in one of the only patches of violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea) in Massachusetts:

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It’s amazing how quickly animals show up to occupy whatever little niches we create for them. At the beginning of May, we hurriedly put up this little birdhouse on one of the garden fence posts, right after a pair of bluebirds stopped by to explore.

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The bluebirds showed up the next day and spent a good while contemplating the house, but then took off and never returned. However, within a week some tree swallows showed up, and the’ve been nesting there ever since.

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(I took that picture of another swallow several years ago, but you get the idea.)

If you look closely at the first photo, you’ll see that the sumac stake with the bee hole in it has some buds that are starting to open up. Some of the taller stakes by the birdhouse have fully opened leaves. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

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About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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One Response to Microhabitats

  1. Mary Lenahan says:

    Love your blog posts! Very cool about the small carpenter bees!

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