Two in One

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Bumble and Honeybee with a Sunflower of Indeterminate Heritage

Two today, both laden with pollen. Before you get too impressed with the bee in flight, you should probably know that I’m muttering about blind pigs and acorns and rolling the dice often enough and other similar aphorisms.

Part of the reason for that is that the depth of focus, when shooting bees, is pretty thin. I’m trying to figure out how to explain this in a way that makes sense and it’s tough because a photo is a two dimensional representation of three dimensions (well, four, if you count that fraction of a second caught).

Imagine a pane of glass about 1/8″ of an inch thick (likely less) that’s about a foot away from your lens and directly perpendicular to it – so you’re looking straight through it. That eighth or sixteenth of an inch of thickness – that’s what is going to be in focus when the shutter snaps.

If you go back to the Hairy Eyeball Bee that I posted on the 8th of this month, you’ll see that only part of the eyeball is in focus. And a bee in profile is a pretty thin thing as it is. But in that shot we lose focus on the legs quickly…and the pollen on her head, just a millimeter or few behind, is blurring. And the closer the target is to the lens, the thinner the depth of focus is cut.

That’s one of the reasons that shooting bees is tough. The other is that they’re always moving. And they’re fast in flight.

SO…all that is to point out that the constraints are pretty awful. Nearly impossible. Meaning that to get a shot of one in flight with another nearly in that same focal plane has very little to do with planning and skill – and much more to do with luck and rolling the dice enough times to make something happen.

But when it does, it’s sure fun.

A Little Digression – About Art and Otherwise

I’d like every shot I take to be compelling art. Who wouldn’t? In addition to it being not possible practically in my experience, it might not always be the point. What I might be getting at, ultimately, is that a mugshot and a Leibowitz exist for different purposes. They’re shot for different reasons. And, bear with me, assuming that Leibowitz (or your favorite photographer) is the apex of photographic art…and the mugshot exists simply to document and for no other reason, there’s clearly a continuum – at least one axis.

So…I’d be inclined to put today’s shot on my wall. But probably not yesterday’s. Yesterdays is really clear, interesting, and even compelling. But it doesn’t speak to the less technically-inclined parts of me like today’s does.

So…on this site, I hope you’ll end up with the full spectrum. And I hope you find ways to enjoy every shot. I wouldn’t post them if I didn’t.

Mostly I wanted to get that idea from my head to the (virtual) page. And note that there’s a reason that we don’t sit for an oil done by the modern Rembrandt equivalent when we need a passport photo. Different purposes. Different outcomes. And both useful for their respective purposes.

Pollenface!

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Honeybee loaded up on a Gaillardia Mesa™ Peach

This is one of my favorite shots from last summer. She’s a complete mess and must be in some kind of bee bliss. At least that’s what I’d like to think.

In addition to her outright beauty (and her covered face), a couple of things jump out at me. First that pollen basket is packed! She’s loaded up. Second, notice the pollen on her eye. It’s floating on the tiny hairs there. See the “Hairy Eyeball” post below for a discussion on that. It will end up in the basket, eventually, as she grooms herself.

You’ll be seeing a lot of this particular flower – Gaillardia Mesa™ Peach – if you keep checking back. Besides being gorgeous itself, it is a magnet for all kinds of pollinators. It starts blooming here in the Rockies in mid-summer and just doesn’t stop until a hard frost. And it’s such an interesting background/foreground/midground to shoot at. Complex and varied and beautiful. I’m pretty sure it would look good in your garden, too.

I just love this shot. So many elements of quintessential “honeybee in a flower garden”.

Filthy Bumble on a Meadow Blazing Star

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Bumble on a Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris ligulistylis)

The Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris ligulistylis) is an incredible plant for attracting pollinators. I look forward to it blooming every year. The pollen mess all over that bumble is Liatris pollen. White, not purple. Seems odd to me, but what do I know? This variety gets pretty tall – up to five feet. And when it blooms (late summer/early fall), it’s just covered with blossoms – nearly bottom to top. My only criticism of the thing is it moves some even in the slightest breeze – and it’s tough enough finding a bee that will hold still… 😉

Honeybee on a Geranium Called Rozanne®

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Honeybee on Geranium Rozanne®

Love the eyes and face and tongue on this one. The geranium is called Rozanne® – and I’m not sure what I think about that ®. Guess it’s the way of the world. The geranium is fairly aggressive in that it spreads out however and wherever it can. But it blooms like mad – and persistently. The bees love it. Sometimes, when it’s in full bloom, it’s just throbbing with bee life. Humming. A good one for attracting bees.

Bonus – Hang Five!

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Thread-waisted Wasp Hanging from an Iris

Hang five? More like two or three? The Thread-waisted Wasp is an inadvertent pollinator. And at the rate they move around (they’re very hard to photograph), my guess is that they get a good bit of pollinating done. Although they do feed on nectar, they also eat other insects. This one is consuming what looked like a very young grasshopper (for which I shed no tear).

The Old Hairy Eyeball

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Honeybee on an Aster

Well, almost a hairy eyeball. But more at: hair between parts of the eye. But first…five eyes total. Three simple ones on the top of the head (called ocelli). And then two compound ones on either side of the head. Although you cannot see the simple ones in this photograph, they’re pretty clear in the shot from Feb. 3.

The compound eyes are made of an array of lenses called ommatidia. And there is specialized hair between those lenses. Some say that the hair between the lenses detects wind direction and speed – which is apparently useful for navigation. Citation needed, I think. Might be a myth. And they sure have a lot of other hair elsewhere… A team at Georgia Tech made the case that the hair keeps pollen out of the eyes. Or, better, allows for collecting and then removing the pollen. That makes more sense to me. And also fits with what I’ve observed (pollen mess/cleaning/grooming). Stay tuned for some shots of filthy, filthy bees.

Here’s the eye in that pic at 100 percent. I won’t often break out a photo, but this was too interesting not to.

Not quite a “hairy eyeball”. But hair, nonetheless, at the intersections of the hexagonal ommatidia.

This one is on an aster. Here in the foothills of the Rockies, asters begin to bloom in late summer and continue until it freezes hard. They’re often one of the last plants making new blossoms as the season winds down. And the bees just love them. Especially the honeybees – as well as some of the natives. They’re a great late-season flower for pollinators.

Notice that she’d gotten into something else before. That larger pollen on her head and back. Looks like maybe a Rose of Sharon or a Winecup?

Parenthetically, I just printed this shot on acrylic at 16″ x 20″. In a word, stunning! Not typical wall art, I know, but wow. It really pops. She’s got gorgeous eyes!

Golden Bumble on a Giant Larkspur

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Golden Bumble (Bombus fervidus) on a Giant Larkspur (Consolida ajacis)

Not all that much to say about this one. Just a Golden Bumble ( Bombus fervidus) on a Giant Larkspur (Consolida ajacis). Lots of pollen, though. And interesting how she’s got her head jammed in there pulling herself deeper with her claws. Seems the Larkspur was made for just for that. Normally, I like to include the eye in a bee pic. Seems if the eye is in good focus, it’s a good shot. But this one was compelling to me – eye or no.

Sweat Bee on a Zinnia

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Sweat Bee – Orange-legged Furrow Bee (Halictus rubicundus) – on a Zinnia

In what might be a taxonomic trainwreck, I’m going to tentatively call this one a Sweat Bee. More specifically, an Orange-legged Furrow Bee (Halictus rubicundus). And it’s on a zinnia.

If I cannot identify something (and you’re sure about what it is) – or if I’ve misidentified something and you can set me straight, please click on the Leave a Comment button there on the left side and tell me what you know.

I may have sneaked over to the neighbor’s yard for this shot.