Longhorn on a Sunflower

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Longhorn Bee on a Sunflower of Dubious Genealogy

Here’s a nice profile of a longhorn bee. Their eyes…the color and the pattern. They intrigue me. Beautiful and perfect with the aesthetic. This one is fairly clean as longhorns go. They’re often covered. They don’t groom as often or well as honeybees do. At least that I’ve noticed.

And none of them seemed to quite get it in whatever bee kindergarten they didn’t attend. They rarely share and rarely play nicely with others. If they have a flower, they’ll defend it. If someone else is on a flower, they’ve got no compunction about knocking that someone off and taking it. The only exception I’ve noticed is on the larger sunflowers. Occasionally they won’t bother another bee and will work the other side.

They’re one of my favorites to shoot. They are interesting and complex from all angles. Just a beautiful creature.

And, again, the sunflower. Weeds according to some. But gems according to the pollinators. Plant some. Let them seed themselves and wander through your yard from season to season. They’ll take over for a season…then seed and begin again – there and elsewhere. One of my favorites.

Honeybee on a Fameflower

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Honeybee on a Fameflower (Phemeranthus calycinus)

Simple pic today. And while the fameflower (I want to call it flamethrower) is really fantastic for attracting pollinators, I have to say…

It’s one of the most frustrating flowers to try to photograph with a bee on it. First, if there’s any wind at all (and I’m talking the merest hint of a titch of a breath) it gets all flappy – wanders all over the place with the wind. And second, because it’s such a light, delicate little thing even the weight of a honeybee drags it down a couple of inches. A bumble will sometimes take it all the way to the ground. So windy or not, the thing is flapping and bouncing around. Not holding still. And that makes it tough. Finally, it opens late and closes early. Much more convenient to shoot at 24/7 flowers. Nonstop.

That said, it’s beautiful. And especially neat when there are several bees on neighboring blossoms. I’ve seen several varieties of bees on it as well as some butterflies. Neat flower.

St. Valentine’s Honeybee

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Honeybee on a Knautia macedonica – called a Mars Midget

This one seemed appropriate for the day. It was shot by thebeegal. She takes marvelous photographs. This was shot in our gardens…well, her gardens. She’s the one with the talent and the one who does all the work. I wrangle the watering systems, am the enabler, and sweat when dumb labor is needed.

In fact, unless I say otherwise, assume that the bee shot you see came from our gardens. They’re pretty neat. Always something going on. There’s not a particular garden style that might describe them, so I coined the term, MMAyhem. Lots going on. Or, more genteel-ly, fireworks in slow motion.

But the bee. Honeybees have a sadly short lifespan/lifecycle. At least for the workers. In the summer, it’s only about six weeks (contrast that with up to seven years for the queen). And you can tell that this one is nearing the end. A couple of the indications are her chewed-up wings and her back there behind her neck having lost a good bit of hair. Makes me sad to see, but also gratified that she’s still pushing along, doing what she does. And still pretty.

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).