Honeybee on a Salvia

Honyebee on a Salvia

I like this one for its depth and almost dreamy quality. Tranquil. The honeybees seem to be attracted to this one although the natives also visit. I don’t have too many shots of bumbles on this particular variety (which is, I think, a locally-created, prettymuch accidental hybrid). Here, salvias of different varieties bloom from mid-summer until the first hard frost. They’re a little aggressive and tend to shove other plants out of the way so they need to be managed a little.

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Honeybee with Asters

Honeybee with Asters

This is one of my favorite shots from last summer. Don’t know if I have a good word to describe…but there are probably a thousand for it. I’ll let you find one.

I printed this on on a 24×36 inch canvas. And it seems a good medium for it. Really looks almost like a painting. Just a worker bee doing what she does. Beautiful.

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Honeybee on a Fameflower

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.

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St. Valentine’s Honeybee

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.

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Two in One

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.

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Pollenface!

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”.

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Honeybee on a Geranium Called Rozanne®

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.

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The Old Hairy Eyeball

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!

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CANCELLED – Palisade (Colorado) International Honeybee Festival – Mark the Date! – April 18, 2020

Honeybee on Cone Flower (Echinacea) – Taken at Ogden (UT) Botanical Gardens 

I’ll be in Colorado on Saturday, the 18th of April, 2020 for the 12th Annual Palisade International Honeybee Festival. You can learn more about it on their website: http://palisadehoneybeefest.org/

They also have a FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/Palisade.International.Honeybee.Festival/

Looks to be an educational, fun, edifying event. A great way to spend a Saturday. It’s free to attend and will go all day. There will be live music, art, crafts, and other goods for sale – as well as a variety of food from local restaurants and other vendors.

I’ll have a booth there displaying and selling some of my better photographs – mostly of bees. In addition to the traditional matted and framed photographs, I’ll have prints on metal, canvas, and acrylic. I hope you find some space on your wall for a photograph or two… (Note: just picked up my first prints on acrylic, metal, and canvas. Wow.)

Jean Tally, the Volunteer Coordinator of the honeybee festival, has been incredibly helpful to me as I prepare for this event. After years (don’t ask how many) of shooting, this will be my first foray into sharing my stuff. With Jean at the helm, it’s a lock that it will be well-run and worthwhile.

Also, while you’re in the area, check out the Blue Pig Gallery ( 101 West 3rd Street there in Palisade, CO). They’ve got some wonderful – no, stunning – art there from local artists. Worth a stop for sure. Kay Crane, the gallery director, has been wonderfully generous to me with both her time and advice. Have a look. And on the evening of the 17th (the Friday before), the Blue Pig Gallery will be hosting a kick-off reception.

One of the photographs I’ll have to offer there is today’s bee of the day. It’s one of my favorites and it looks really nice printed. It’s a Honeybee on Cone Flower (Echinacea) that I shot last July at the Ogden (UT) Botanical Gardens. (And that’s worth a look if you’re ever in Ogden. They do a really neat job there.)

Hope to see you in Colorado!

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