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Posts Tagged ‘bee’

This bee seemed to be having a great time inside of a lotus flower when I spotted it last Tuesday during a brief visit to Green Spring Gardens with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. This county-run historical garden has only a relatively limited number of lotuses and waterlilies at a small pond, but it is much more accessible and less crowded that Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, an amazing facility in Washington D.C. operated by the National Park Service that has multiple acres of cultivated ponds with a wide array of water lilies and lotuses.

lotus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really happy that I was able to track this Swamp Darner dragonfly (Epiaeschna heros) after it zoomed by me yesterday afternoon at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When I finally caught up to it, the large dragonfly was hanging vertically, high in a tree among the leaves, leisurely munching on its bee lunch in the shade.

Yes, I recognize that bees play an important role as pollinators and highlighted that in yesterday’s posting. Bees, however, also serve as a food source for other creatures higher up on the food chain—they are all part of the circle of life.

Swamp Darners are among the largest dragonflies in our area, about 3.4 inches (86 mm) in length. I really like the description that Kevin Munroe provided of Swamp Darners on the wonderful Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website. “I often tell people on dragonfly walks that if they see a rhino with wings, it’s a swamp darner. Slight exaggeration, perhaps, but they are pretty impressive. June is their month and the best time to see them, as they cruise, slow and purposefully, over shallow, swampy pools, or hunt high over nearby meadows.”

 

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love bees and spent quite a while on Monday in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer observing them and trying to photograph them. I had no idea that lamb’s ear plants produce flowers, but the bee in the first photo certainly was aware of that fact when I spotted it busily at work. The bee in the second shot decided to try an acrobatic move to gain access to the nectar in the lavender plant that swung wildly each time the bee landed on it. In the final shot, I captured the bee as it was crawling all over a flower of a cool-looking globe thistle plant.

I am not very good at identifying bees, but I think these bees are all Eastern  Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa virginica). Unlike bumblebees that have fuzzy abdomens, carpenter bees have shiny, relatively hairless abdomens.

 

lamb's ear

lavender

globe thistle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I tend to think of pollen as yellow, but it comes in other colors too. This past weekend I captured this shot of a bee covered in bright red pollen from the Purple Deadnettle flowers (Lamium purpureum) on which it was feeding. Earlier this spring I did a posting with a somewhat similar shot, but misidentified the plant as the closely-related Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).

Purple Deadnettle is in the mint family and seems to be everywhere at this time of year. I was in a fairly remote area when I took this shot, but I have seen large patches of it in gardens, where it is considered to be a weed. According to an article entitled “Foraging for Purple Dead Nettle: an edible backyard weed,” the plant is not only a wild edible green, but a highly nutritious superfood. The leaves are edible, with the purple tops being even a little sweet. It can also be used in combination with other “weeds” like chickweed and dandelion greens to make pesto and can also be added to soups, salads, or blended into smoothies.

But wait, there is more. Purple Dead Nettle also has purported medicinal benefits. It is known in the herbal world as being astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic and purgative. It’s also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal and can be used to make salve, poultices, and teas.

As an interesting aside, in Great Britain this plant is apparently known as Red Deadnettle. Why is there a difference in names? I do not know why, but it is not all that surprising considering the number of different words the British use for common objects and the different spellings for common words.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although the temperatures were cool on Tuesday afternoon, this little bee was busy in the garden of my neighbor and friend Cindy Dyer. The plant on which the bee was feeding technically bight be considered to be a weed, and not a flower, but the bee surely did not mind.

Most of the pollen that I am used to seeing is bright yellow, but in this case it appeared to red in color. As you can see in the second photo, the bee was using a headfirst approach—for extended periods of time it would bury its head among the small petals of this plant.

I went searching around on internet trying to identify the plant and I think it might be Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). I would welcome a confirmation or correction of this identification by someone more familiar with flowers than I am.

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bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With all of the hot weather we have been having recently, I have absolutely no desire to be as busy as a bee. I spotted this bee busily at work this past Tuesday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Temperatures in our area are forecast to rise to 100 degrees (38 degrees C) today and the high humidity will make it feel even more intolerable. I will probably spend most of the days indoors, but fortunately I have plenty of recent photos in reserve that I can process and post.

This image is the kind of simple shot that I really like. I remember my sense of wonder the first time I used a macro lens and I still feel excitement when I immerse myself in the details that a macro lens reveals.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love to photograph bees and realize that I have not featured one for quite some time. I captured this image of one as it perched on some pickerelweed this past weekend at Ben Brenman Park in Alexandria, VA.

In many ways, this image is as much about the flowering plant as it is about the bee. It speaks to me of the interaction between those two main subjects.

For me, photographing nature is about balancing the depiction of the small details, as I often do, with the “bigger” picture—the framing of this shot helps to give the viewer a better sense of the environment than if I had done an extreme close-up shot of the bee itself.

bee and pickerelweed

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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

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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.

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bee

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Photography seems so complicated when I worry too much about lighting, camera settings, and a myriad of other technical concerns. It’s nice sometimes to put those cares in the back of my mind and just shoot as I did yesterday—me, my camera, a bee, and a flower.

It can be that simple and that enjoyable.

bee

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While I was in Blacklick, Ohio (just outside of Columbus) this past weekend, I had a chance to observe and photograph the beehive of the folks with whom I was staying. They offered to let me wear a beekeeper suit, but I declined and instead got up close and personal with some of the bees. In these images, a bee was licking up some syrup that had dripped down the side of the hive structure.

bee

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Flowers and bees have a mutualistic relationship—the flower provides the nectar and the bee assists in pollination. Sometimes, though, bees will circumvent the process by drilling a hole in the side of the flower and gaining access to the nectar without touching the reproductive parts of the flower, a process sometimes called “nectar robbing.”

Last weekend, I encountered this bee, which looks to be a honeybee, repeatedly taking nectar from the side of a Salvia flower. In an earlier posting, I showed that it was a tight fit for a bumblebee to enter the flower from the front, but it nonetheless did its part in pollination. The honeybee apparently decided it was easier to take a shortcut and go directly to the nectar.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although it is already October and the weather is getting cooler, the local bees have not yet called it quits for the season. I am not sure what kind of purple flower this is, but the bumblebee was busily burrowing its head into its open blossoms.

I was happy to be able to catch the bee in action, capturing an “artsy” image of the moment.

October bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the urge to take some photos strikes me and I don’t want to travel very far, I can usually depend on Cindy Dyer, my neighbor and photography mentor, to have something interesting to shot in her garden. About five o’clock today, I photographed what looks to be a tiny metallic green bee on one of the colorful flowers still in bloom at the side of her townhouse.

I like my fall colors to be bright and vivid, not muted and faded.

greenbee1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During these last few days of summer, the bees seem especially busy. I love the sight of bees covered in pollen, especially unusual ones like this striped bee (I think it is a bee, but would welcome corrections to my identification).

bee_summer_blog

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I usually think of pollen as being bright yellow, but this past weekend I observed a small multi-colored bee covered in white pollen from what appears to be a chicory flower. Who knew that pollen could have different colors?

multi-colored bee

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Whenever I have my macro lens on my camera I seem to be irresistibly drawn to bees, like bees to honey. No matter what else I am shooting during the summer, I always seem to have some images of bees interspersed among my other photos. Here are some of my recent favorite bee shots.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day, but it was very breezy, which made it tough for me to get decent shots of bees in my neighbors’ garden. I am still going through my photos (and deleting a lot of them), but I was immediately drawn to this image of an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) on a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Although the dark background suggests the use of flash, I wasn’t using any flash and the shutter speed of 1/400 in the EXIF data is faster than the synch speed of my flash. I was trying to get as close to the bees as I could and the height of the coneflowers made it possible to get at eye level with the bee and get this head-on shot.

bee1_cone_blog

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I was on my hands and knees last Friday, trying to get a shot of a small wildflower growing on the forest floor, when a bee landed on the very flower on which I was focusing. What are the odds of that happening at the moment when my eye was glued to the viewfinder and I was focusing manually?

The flower was only about four inches (10 cm) tall, which gives you an idea of the low angle from which I was shooting. After a second or two on the first flower (shown in the second shot), the bee moved to an adjacent flower, and I took the image I presented first. It’s interesting to note the narrowness of the depth of field—in the first shot below, I managed to focus on the bee’s head, whereas in the second shot, the focus point was more on the center of its body. I like each of the images for somewhat different reasons, but I am still shocked that I managed to get them.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than skilled.

bee2_flower_blogbee_flower_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Within minutes of seeing the elegant honey bee that I featured in a recent posting, I encountered this Eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica), which is built more like a sumo wrestler than a dancer, especially when viewed face-to-face, as in the second image below.

 

carpenter1_blog

carpenter2_blog

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It’s been gray and rainy almost all this week in Brussels, so many of these shots feature raindrops. When I am away on a trip for business, I generally carry only my point-and-shoot camera, an old Canon A620.

This trip I decided to experiment with the macro mode and see what kind of shots I could get. I was pleasantly surprised with the results and even managed to get some insect shots, despite the fact that I had to get really close to them, compared with the macro lens that I normally use. I never had to worry about harsh sunlight—I never saw any the entire trip—and mostly had to shoot a a high ISO and an almost wide-open aperture.

I did get some shots of the buildings in Brussels, which looked almost monochromatic in the gray light, but will post some of those images when I return home from the trip.

beepink1dropsflyleaf_dropspink2

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the advantages to living in a relatively southern state is that summer lingers on for a bit longer and flowers continue to bloom. As long as there are flowers blooming, bees continue in their efforts to gather pollen,

I am not sure what flower this is, but it was blooming in the garden of one of my neighbors, Cindy Dyer, a fellow photographer and blogger. She plants her garden with an eye toward plants that will photograph well and when I have a few minutes to spare, I enjoy making a quick trip to her garden to see what is blooming.

When I first spotted it, I had this mental picture of the bee working in the center of the flower, surrounded by a protective little fence.  I tried to frame the shot with that picture in mind and chose an angle that emphasized the “fence.”

Sep_bee_blog

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Although it is already September and signs of autumn are starting to appear, bees continue to be as busy as ever. The blooming morning glory flowers in my neighbors’ garden attracted a bee’s attention early yesterday morning and I got these shots as it tried to figure out the optimal strategy for gathering pollen.

glory2_blogglory3_blog

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I usually think of bees as being yellow and black, but I encountered this cool-looking metallic green bee (of the Agapostemon family) yesterday at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia.

I remember The Green Hornet on television when I was a child, but I had never seen a green bee before. At first I was not even sure that it was a bee, but as I watched it gather pollen, I concluded that it had to be a bee.

It seems appropriate that I would be suffering from color confusion at that moment, because the bee was perched on a Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea), a flower that in my experience is rarely purple—they normally appear to be more pink than purple.

Now that I have freed my mind and broken the bonds of my conventional thinking about the color of bees, perhaps I will be able to bee all that I can bee.

green_bee1_blog green_bee2_blog green_bee3_blog

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This bee might argue that it’s just the camera angle, but my initial impression of this bee was that he looked chubby—I don’t think that I have ever encountered a bee with such a round face. He reminds me of a sumo wrestler at the start of a match.

The bee pretty much ignored me, though, and seemed to really get into his work, literally, gathering pollen from some kind of milkweed plant, perhaps swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

chubby_blog

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I was attracted initially by the bright red color of a cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), but then I noticed a small amount of movement. When I looked more closely, I realized there was a tiny bee—the smallest that I have ever seen—busily gathering pollen. Rather than gathering pollen in little sacs, as I had seen other bees do, this bee seemed to be collecting it on his abdomen.

I don’t know much about plant anatomy, but as I searched on the internet, I learned some fascinating things about the cardinal flower, especially from a blog posting by Eye on Nature dealing with the way in which hummingbirds pollinate cardinal flowers. That posting contains some detailed images of the cardinal flower as well as some fantastic shots of a hummingbird.

I shot these images handheld with my 180mm macro lens. Ideally I should have used my tripod to get clearer shots, but the bee was so active that I feared that it would be gone if I had taken the time to set up the tripod.

It’s hard to appreciate the small size of the “bearded” section of the cardinal flower, so I enclosed an overall look at the flower as a final photo.

tiny_bee_blogtiny_bee2_blogtiny_bee-3_blogcardinal_flower_blog

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A bee landed on a petal of this purple water lily and, rather than heading for the center of the flower, the obvious source for pollen, decided to crawl down in between the petals.

I followed his movements and, after a short time, those movements ceased—I think he was stuck. Eventually the plant began to move again, this time more violently. Slowly the bee reemerged, crawling slowly up the petal, and I took this shot.

I find the tones of this image to be very soothing and purple is one of my favorite colors. If you too like purple, check out today’s postings called Violetta at Calee Photography, one of my favorite blogs.

crawling_out_blog

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Have you noticed that I really like purple water lilies? I was so struck by their beauty the first time that I saw one last year that a purple water lily appears at the top of my blog most of the time.

Earlier this week, as I was visiting Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland,  I came across an area in which two types of purple, tropical water lilies were growing. My photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, always recommends photographing the little signs that identify flowers and other plants and these water lilies were called “Panama Pacific” and “Blue Beauty.”

As I was photographing one of the waterlilies—I think it was a Panama Pacific—a bee dove headfirst into the center of the flower. Even before the bee arrived, I had noticed that the center of the water lily seemed to be glowing and that was what I was trying to capture by underexposing the shot. If you click on the photo, you can see a higher resolution view of the image, which shows an almost three-dimensional view of the flower’s center.

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