Posted by: buzzybeegirl | December 22, 2008

On this episode of Cheaters

Meet Tecoma , a.k.a. Orange jubilee (O.J.).


Here’s the situation…O.J. needs to be pollinated, with the help of bees. The relationship O.J. is used to is this…

honeybee visiting Tecoma sp.

honeybee visiting Tecoma sp.

The bee crawls inside the flower to get the nectar reward and pollinates the flower at the same time.

But…there are other bee’s that cheat. Yes, cheat. I’m sorry to have to expose such devious bee behavior. Some bees, like this carpenter bee, somehow know where the nectar of the flower is. The bee knows she cannot fit inside the flower to reach the sweet sweet nectar reward. So, instead, she goes around and avoids the whole “I am going pollinate this flower and in exchange I will get a nectar reward.” The bee breaks the mutualistic relationship between her and O.J.

How you ask? I followed this Carpenter bee, watched her every move…and took pictures of such dishonesty. I captured her cheating in PUBLIC!

This is how it went down…O.J. is out there waiting to be visited by this Carpenter bee. Instead, the bee blows her off, crawls to the base of the flower on the outside, bites a slit into the base of the flower.

flower with slit at base

flower with slit at base

The bee is then able to drink the nectar without pollinating O.J. When this happens we say the carpenter bee is the primary nectar robber. Just look at the bee in action…

Carpenter bee robbing

Carpenter bee robbing

The dishonesty doesn’t stop there people. Once there is a slit on the flower, other bees, like honeybees, which can fit inside the flower, begin to use the slit. This is called secondary nectar robbing. The mouth parts of honeybees are not strong enough to do this, but when they know there is a slit already there, they go for the slit. Poor poor O.J. So robbed is she.

honeybee secondary robbing

honeybee secondary robbing

People do not know how these bees learn such a behavior…I have always wanted to know. So devious yet so smart.



  1. hahaha! cheaters! those bees…they’re ready for their own fox network show!

    great post!

  2. Those carpenter bees used to drill perfectly circular holes into our log home back in New York. Does their malice know no bounds?

  3. You have to give them credit for accuracy…your log cabin is some bees palace

  4. So the same bees that leave holes in my eaves are complete and total cheaters? I’m not really surprised you know. Any bee willing to chew up my eaves is likely to be completely unfaithful to a flower.

    But this does lead a question….how does the next-to-arrive honeybee know that there is a slit there? Why wouldn’t said bee just do its normal bee-thing and dive into the flower via the usual route?

  5. No one knows how either the first bee learns to do the behavior or how others learn to use the slit. It’s just crazy I tell you

  6. Is “just crazy” a scientific expression?


  7. I’ve been been watching our carpenters (in the summer) and so far haven’t seen any robberies, but most of my flowers provide easy access. The carpenter bees do drill holes in our deck and leave some kind of bee “poop” on the patio below.

    Do the honey bees smell the nectar through the slit and then just make a “bee line” for it?

    Thanks for the cheery orange flower photos, even if they have been pitifully robbed and mangled. It’s very cold here in Kansas City, so any warmth is appreciated.

    • Thanks for visiting Catherine. I’m glad you don’t seem to mind the drilling the carpenter bees do, and that is poop they are leaving. They like their home to be clean. Not a lot of work has been done regarding nectar robbing and not much has been done on them smelling nectar. It could be possible that they smell it, then learn that structure means they don’t have to go into the flower. If the bees see other bees go to the base and rob, they can also be learning the behavior by watching. This is a behavior I would one day like to explore.

  8. HEINOUS CHEATERS! They should be rounded up and put in containers with fake O.J.’s that have nectar-like scents that are actually just scent and no nectar!

    That’ll show ’em!

    • But they are adorable cheaters

  9. I like julibee-diamond verymuch

  10. Happy New Year buzzybeegirl.

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