Please note that all content (photographs and text) are copyright of the author. I have licenced the contents of my blog under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License:This means that you can repost and use material for non commercial use only and as long as you give credit to me as the author and include the same conditions for anyone else to use the material likewise.Refer to the link for more information: Creative CommonsAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Strange visitors

Strange visitors

Heliconia psittacorum "Golden Torch"

I have been working on a post (research and writing) on some interesting taxonomical issues related to a couple plants I have had for a while and been trying to identify. It is a slightly long topic as the initial identification seemed suspect to me but following additional research I was able to verify that my original identification of the plant I had was correct. However, in the course of finding this additional I also found information that required me to reassess the identification of another plant.
Pink Orchid Tree Flowers
In order to better discuss the issue I needed to get some photos of the various plant parts involved in the assessment of the correct taxonomical designation of these plants. I will not discuss all that in this post since this post is about some things that serendipitously presented themselves as blog material while I was taking photos for the other post. The other post will be published under the heading “Walking Irises: A case of mistaken identity Neomarica and Trimezia

Blue and Yellow Walking Irises
I’d gone to Malifa to check on the plants there and decided to take the opportunity to take the necessary photos for the other blog post and since I was taking photos I carried on taking photos of other plants that happened to be in flower or looked particularly photogenic at that moment in time. It is fascinating how simple differences in light, either due to the time of the day or presence of clouds etc can alter the way the plants and especially the colours of the flowers and leaves appear. Since I work predominantly with natural light I try to take advantage of this since sometimes I can only take a certain shot from a certain angle when the sun is in the right place. So when I have my camera I usually try to take advantage of the opportunity to take photos when I can which was what I was doing that day.

One of the plants that was in flower that day was a White Dwarf Orchid Tree, which I think is Bauhinia acuminata according to research I have done on the genus so far. I have not been able to find sufficient details in order to make a proper assessment. At the moment I am basing my guess primarily on the similarity of the flowers with flowers of plants that have been identified as Bauhinia acuminata. Also I have not yet found any mention of any other dwarf species in the genus.

The Dwarf Orchid Tree is a small shrub compared to the full sized plants of the genus which was fortunate as it made taking photos easy.

Dwarf White Orchid Tree Flowers
So there I was snapping photos using my phone (which explains the lesser quality photos), when to my great delight I suddenly saw this giant bee that I have seen several times before both at Alafua and Malifa but never been able to get a good photo of. Either I did not have a camera or it was flitting from flower to flower in a way that prevented me from getting in close enough and fast enough to zoom in and get a decent macro shot. Fortunately in this instance the flowers were all pretty much close together and within reach although some shots required me to stand on a large rock and reach up and take a blind shot. A couple times I got buzzed but not stung. I think it was more curious as to what I was up to, than anything. It even zoomed off into the empty lot next door where I suspect it has its nest or burrow.

Carpenter Bee collecting pollen from a Dwarf Orchid Tree flower
The first time I saw one of these Bees close up was at Malifa when the poor thing was trying to collect pollen from the flowers of a plant I have not yet identified. I saw poor thing because these flowers are extremely delicate and the petals fall of in a stiff breeze and disintegrate whenever there is rain, so every time the poor bee landed ... or tried to land on a flower, the flower would fell apart and the bee would catch itself and wobble about a bit in confusion before making another effort. It was only when it had caused the disintegration of all the available flowers and a moment of puzzled searching that it flew off. By then I was already in stitches at the ludicrous sight of this enormous ungainly yet strangely appealing and extremely patient and persistent insect repeatedly averting a disastrous tumble each time it landed only to have to rev its wings up again to keep its self aloft.
Carpenter Bee collecting pollen from Dwarf Orchid Tree flower

Just watching it you cannot help be amazed that such small flimsy wings can actually lift such an enormous insect. In fact it often gave the impression of being only barely able to keep itself aloft although that was only when flying from flower to flower. When it went in a straight line out it flew quite fast and steadily although it gave the impression of rushing to get to its destination before disaster struck.
Purple flower (UNKNOWN)

I thought it was some sort of Bumble Bee but when I did some searches under “Giant Bee” I found information that pointed to it being a species of Carpenter bees which belong to the genus Xylocopa in the subfamily Xylocopinae although I could not ascertain for certain which species it was.

Flowers of Pink Orchid Tree
The Xylocopinae are large bees which are found all over the world. I have not been able to find out if specific species are found only in certain geographical areas or if several share the same geographical areas. In any case like Honey bees they are harmless if left alone and are not aggressive unless threatened. Supposedly it is rare for them to sting anyone.

As I indicated I got buzzed a couple times but then I was sticking my camera within a few inches of it trying to get a decent macro shot of it.
In essence Carpenter Bees are solitary bees and live in burrows in the ground.

Taxonomical Information:

Binomial Name: Xylocopa (species unknown)

Common names: Carpenter Bee

Additional details:

Carpenter bees (the genus Xylocopa in the subfamily Xylocopinae) are large bees distributed worldwide.

Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters Blog by Vincent Albert Vermeulen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

My Blogs:

·         Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters (on plants, animals as well as gardening, conservation and environmental matters)

·         The Blood of  Souls (language, translation and etymology)

·         Whiskers on Kittens (Life with Kittens and Cats in general)




  1. Vae povi leaf orchid tree Vincent... The leaves r vae povi shaped n we had young tree growing well @Moto'otua turf ... Great Memories triggered here fa'afetai lava for sharing these... One sister of mine's favourite sei... Alofas from Utah/Ko Netzler

    1. I have three varieties, two at Malifa (a White and a Dwarf white). The third is at Alafua which is pink. I have been trying to get a blue one and would also love to get a red and yellow.