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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group, a place where everyone is welcome to note the observations you have made of the natural world around you. Fledglings, insects, blossoms, fish, climate, reptiles and/or amphibians: all are worthy additions to the bucket. Ask questions if you have them and someone here may well have an answer. All we ask is that you let us know where you're located, as close as you're comfortable revealing.
My first ripe strawberry appeared last week. These are called "June berries," so you don't expect ripening in the middle of May.  It's the little red spot in the photo, lying on the stone, just above the picture's center.

 That afternoon, it vanished. The squirrel says the robin took it.  

That plant ripens early.   It's a strawberry runner that embedded itself between two paving stones, by the pond.  The stones probably stay warm, speeding its ripening.

Its ripening prompted me to examine my raised strawberry beds.

Raised beds have many virtues; no bending over to pick berries or to weed. You can plant in selected, weed free soil. But the main reason I built flat-stone-edged raised beds is because you can sit on the edges and rest, and look at the strawberries.

So I sat, and looked. But what I saw gave me bad feelings, like when the temperature gauge on your car suddenly sweeps to 300 degrees, and the engine starts making a hammering sound.

There were scores of what looked like winged termites all over my strawberries! They were ant-sized with long transparent wings. I felt ill. Termite eradication can cost thousands of dollars.

I looked at them with a magnifying glass. They looked like tiny wasps, so black they were blue, with streamlined bodies.  Magnified, they looked lethal, but they weren't termites.

With the magnifying glass, for the first time, I saw other bee-like bugs, with yellow and black striped abdomens, also about 1/4 inch long (6.35 mm).

What I have is not termites, it is small carpenter bees, which are real bees, and pollinate busily.  The striped bugs were mason bees, perhaps the progeny from the tubes of mason bees we'd set out faithfully for years.

For every 50 carpenter and mason bees in the strawberries, there was only one or two of the bumble bees or honey bees or what I now discovered were large carpenter bees.

When I moved to the out-of-control purple-flowered chives, there were many more honey and bumble bees, while the mason and carpenter bee counts slacked off.

The carpenter bees apparently nest individually in unpainted wood, in pencil-lead-sized burrows.  Since I am too stingy to throw away scrap boards, there's plenty of wood laying around for the carpenter bees. It's raining far too hard to search for their abodes.

I imagine anyone seeing the winged, ant-sized bees emerge from a tunnel in wood, will have their own false termite scare.

At the moment, I'm grateful to the small carpenter bees. By far, they're the busiest pollinators of the strawberry flowers.  The mason bees are a distant 2nd, although there were more a week ago.  Without flowers, there will be no berries.

I doubt I'd have ever peered into a strawberry flower, were it not for the recent, striking Daily Bucket photos of bugs and bees in flower blossoms.  Then I'd never have known the mason bees had established themselves, much less learned of the carpenter bee.  The next challenge is taking a picture of my tiny garden helpers.

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Fri May 24, 2013 at 07:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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