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Posts Tagged ‘honey bee’

One of the highlights of my visit on Monday to Green Spring Gardens was photographing a blossoming Japanese Apricot tree (Prunus mume). It was a little strange to see a tree with blossoms during the winter, but apparently it is normal for this species to blossom in mid-winter and late winter. The flowers are commonly known as plum blossoms and are a frequent theme in traditional painting in China and in other East Asian countries—the blossoms were also a favorite with the honey bees.

According to Wikipedia, the plum blossom is “one of the most beloved flowers in China and has been frequently depicted in Chinese art and poetry for centuries. The plum blossom is seen as a symbol of winter and a harbinger of spring. The blossoms are so beloved because they are viewed as blooming most vibrantly amidst the winter snow, exuding an ethereal elegance, while their fragrance is noticed to still subtly pervade the air at even the coldest times of the year. Therefore, the plum blossom came to symbolize perseverance and hope, as well as beauty, purity, and the transitoriness of life.”

I do not use my macro lens very much during the winter months and usually leave it at home. However, the mild weather that we have been having made me suspect that some flowers would be in bloom, so I put the macro lens on my camera—the busy bees turned out to be a big bonus.

I especially admired the efforts of the bee in the first photo. This bee did not want to wait for the bud to open, but instead burrowed its way to the pollen-filled center of the blossom-to-be.

Japanese Apricot tree

Japanese Apricot tree

Japanese Apricot tree

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This winter has been usually mild and spring color is already starting to appear in our area. During a visit yesterday to Green Spring Gardens, a local county-run historical garden, I spotted crocuses in bloom at several locations. Finding crocuses was not too much of a surprise, since they are usually among the first flowers to appear each spring.  However, it was an unexpected bonus to be able to photograph a honey bee collecting pollen inside of one of the crocuses.

In many ways yesterday’s photography was a return to my roots. When I started getting more serious about photography seven years ago, I did a lot of shooting with my friend and mentor, Cindy Dyer. One of her many areas of specialization is macro photography of flowers and some of her flower images have even appeared on US postage stamps. From her I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography, like composition and depth of field, but more importantly she encouraged and inspired me back then and continues to do so to this day. Thanks, Cindy.

I started off photographing flowers with a few insects, but gradually realized that I was more interested in shooting insects with a few flowers. I can appreciate the beauty of the crocuses in the second and third images below, but the first shot is more representative of my desired shooting style.

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to watch bees as they gather pollen—they seem so industrious and focused as they systematically work their way through a group of flowers. This honey bee had both of its pollen sacs almost completely filled when I spotted it yesterday on a cone flower in the garden of one of my neighbors, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer.

One of the joys of shooting with a macro lens is that it lets you capture so many fine details, like the pollen grains on the legs of this bee and the slight damage on the trailing edges of the bee’s wings. Bees are also a great subject to practice macro techniques, because they often let you get really close without being spooked and flying away.

honey bee

© 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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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.

honey2_bloghoney1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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While visiting a garden during an event advertised as “A Million Blooms” I looked hard, but didn’t find any bees among the many tulips and other spring flowers. It was a bit ironic that I discovered this honey bee on a bush while waiting for my fellow photographers outside the gift shop of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia after seeing lots and lots of flowers.

I was hand-holding my 180mm macro lens for these shots, so I couldn’t close down the lens too far. In some of the shots, therefore, you can see that the depth of field was pretty narrow. Still, I am happy that I was able to capture some of the beautiful details of this honey bee, one of the first bees that I have observed this spring.

honeybee1_bloghoneybee2a_bloghoneybee3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Some bees seem to be really tidy when they are gathering pollen, but this bee was a total mess, with pollen sticking all over its legs and underside. The bee looks to be some kind of honey bee, although the striped markings on its lower body seem a little unusual.

Often when I am shooting a macro shot, I am so worried about the technical aspects of the shot that I forget that photography is also an art. This image helps remind me that photography remains a creative pursuit, a fusion of art and science.

pollen_1a_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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