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Archive for the ‘Bees’ Category

How much pollen can a bee transport at one time? As it circled the inside of a sunflower, this bee filled the pollen baskets on its hind legs with so much bright yellow pollen that I was afraid it would not be able to lift off and fly away. In addition to the very full pollen baskets, which looked like cotton candy to me, the bee was virtually covered with grains of pollen. My fears proved to be unfounded, and the overladen bee was able to carry away its golden treasure.

I think this bee is a bumblebee, though I am no expert on the subject of bees. According to Wikipedia, certain species of bees, including bumblebees and honeybees, have pollen baskets (also known as corbiculae) that are used to harvest pollen. Other bee species have scopae (Latin for “brooms”), which are usually just a mass of hair on the hind legs that are used to transport pollen.

bee pollen

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I love to watch bees and spotted this one recently at Green Spring Gardens. I was struck by the way it resembled a mountain climber (albeit with no ropes) as it hung upside-down from this shaggy flower—I have no idea how to effectively gather pollen from a flower like this one, but the bee seemed to be doing ok with its “tongue.”

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Flowers are beautiful, of course, but when it comes to taking photos, I seem to be equally (or more) attracted to insects among the flowers. Yesterday we finally had some sunshine here in Northern Virginia after three soggy days in a row and I made a trip to Green Spring Gardens with my mentor Cindy Dyer to check out the flowers in bloom.

The wind was blowing most of the afternoon, which turned many of the flowers into moving targets, but patience and persistence allowed me to get some shots of some of my favorites, like love-in-a-mist and columbines. I am still going through my images, but I was immediately attracted to this shot of a bee in flight that I captured as it moved from one iris to another.

I remember being a little surprised to see a bee gathering pollen from irises—there seemed to be much candidates nearby, including some large, showy peonies. The bee didn’t spend long in each iris and the long petals of the iris often hid the bee from view. As I was tracking the bee, I somehow managed to maintain focus and captured this whimsical little shot of it in mid-air. My shutter speed of 1/640 sec was not fast enough to freeze the wings, but I really like the blur of the wings, which enhances the sense of motion for me.

bee and iris

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do bees drink water? As I was investigating the ponds at Green Spring Gardens again yesterday for signs of dragonflies, I spotted some bees landing in the shallow water. It looked like they were getting drinks of water, but I wondered if it was possible that they were somehow gathering nectar and/or pollen.

I did a little research and found out that bees do in fact drink water. One article at honeybeesuite.com described some of the reasons why bees bring water back to the hive. It also noted that, “Bees seem to prefer water that has some growth in it—such as green slime—rather than perfectly clean water.” and speculated that the bees can smell the growth and recognize it as a water source. That was certainly the case at the pond yesterday, where the water had all kinds of green gunk growing on it.

honey bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s still a little too early for dragonflies, but I did find some cool little bees yesterday afternoon at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia, a county-run historical garden not far from where I live. Longtime readers of the blog know that I love taking macro photographs and during summer months my trusty Tamron 180mm macro lens is on my camera most of the time.

Yesterday I decided to dust off my macro lens and search for insects. For most of the afternoon I came up empty-handed, but then I spotted a few bees gathering pollen. They kind of look like honey bees, but I don’t remember honey bees being that small. Grape Hyacinths (g. Muscari) are only a couple of inches tall and the first photo gives you an idea of the size of the bees.

Spring is finally here and I look for an explosion of insects soon. During this transitional time of the year I expect to be switching back and forth between my telephoto zoom lens, primarily for birds, and my macro lens, primarily for flowers and insects.

bee

bee

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Despite this summer’s scorching heat and high humidity, the bees of Green Spring Gardens were busy at work gathering pollen and sipping nectar during a recent visit to the gardens. I’m certainly no expert on bees, but it looks like there are several different varieties in the photos below.

I’m pretty confident that the bee in the final shot is a carpenter bee because its abdomen is bare and shiny, unlike that of the bumblebee, which has a hairy abdomen. If you look closely at that image, you’ll see that this bee appears to be a nectar robber—it is piercing the flower from the side to extract the nectar and thereby is not playing any role in pollinating the flower.

bee

bee

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was looking over a whole range of the colorful flowers yesterday at Green Spring Gardens, I gradually realized that I was drawn most to those with simple shapes and relatively subdued colors, like the modest spiderwort (g. Tradescantia). There is a real beauty in its simplicity.

The bees seemed to like the spiderworts too, including one that I photographed with overfilled pollen sacs.

spiderwort

spiderwort

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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