Thursday, May 12, 2005


In the early Spring of last year I was sitting out on the deck one evening having a glass of wine, when from above I heard a sound like a tiny wood rasp but couldn’t find the source. Then as I continued sitting there I noticed some tiny wood shavings falling down onto my lap. Looking up more specifically, I saw a perfectly round hole in the bottom edge of the eaveboard. As I watched, I saw what looked like a large bumblebee emerge. I headed straight for the internet. According to what I found out there about carpenter bees, there was no need to worry about it.

Then last night I heard the same sound, checked this morning and found that the bee (must be the same bee?) was making a new hole in the bottom edge of the same board, about 2 meters down from the old hole. The female carpenter bee bores straight in - in this case upward - then makes a number of lateral bores 90 degrees perpendicular to the main bore, to lay her eggs in.

This particular board is about an inch thick, and like the bee herself the hole is slightly less than half an inch in diameter, as must be the lateral bores, yet this amazing carpenter, working steadfastly there in the pitch dark, with only a quarter-inch of leeway on either side, has drilled over and over again along the narrow width of the board without ever breaching to either side.

In a natural situation, such as a log or dead tree, such a problem would never present itself. But here, in an artifactually narrow piece of wood, she seems to somehow be aware of the narrowness and does not err even slightly either way; with control in three dimensions, she bores straight perpendicular for many times her length… How does she do it, I wonder…

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