Bees are so important in the environment that you need more than one kind to do the job! At Thornybush, we’re lucky to have several thriving species of these busy little insects, including carpenter bees and mopane bees.
These large bees bear a passing resemblance to bumble bees, except they’re a lot fluffier. Bumble bees have a smooth, shiny abdomen, whereas carpenter bees have thin, short hairs all over their bodies. The females are black in colour with two yellow or orange stripes across their backs while the males are a greenish-gold colour.
They’re called carpenter bees because they burrow into trees and sometimes wooden structures to lay their eggs. Some of them are lucky enough to live in insect hotels.
Carpenter bees are solitary creatures and raise their young independently. The newly hatched bees are fed a mixture of pollen and nectar.
Interestingly, the carpenter bee has a mutual association with phoretic mites which they carry to their nest in their abdominal chamber. These mites feed on any fungi present in the nest, keeping it clean and healthy for its occupants.
In their travels, carpenter bees play an important role in pollinating open-faced wildflowers.
You may think you have never heard of a mopane bee, Plebeina hildebrandti, but in fact you probably have. These tiny bees are usually called mopane flies or sweat flies.
This last name comes from their propensity for moisture and they’re often seen congregating around the mouths and eyes of animals in search of any fluid they can get. Thankfully, these gnat-like insects retreat during the night providing relief from their persistent attentions.
Mopane bees have no stings, but they do produce a dark strong honey. Like most stingless bees, they nest in tree branches, underground cavities, rock crevices and tree branches.
The typical hive consists of a central set of brood combs where eggs are laid, and where the young remain until they are ready to assume their role as part of the colony. These young are not actively fed by the adult bees. Rather, a supply of nectar is placed inside each pod with the egg.
Egg-shaped pots made of beeswax mixed with plant resin are arranged around this central area for honey and pollen storage. When a new generation of bees leave their cells, they initially confine their activities to the hive. As they mature, they assume roles as guards or foragers.
Mopane bees are valuable pollinators for many species of fruit-bearing trees.
When you next spend time at Thornybush, ask your ranger about some of our local bee species and their important role in the environment. Then, when you return home, go ahead and plant flowers in your garden that encourage bees to visit, throw away your insecticides and spread the word about the important work that these little creatures do.
We can guarantee that you’ll feel like the bee’s knees when you stay at one of our luxury lodges, so go ahead and get in touch to arrange your booking now.