Tag Archive | bees

“Too many bugs! Have to put down cement!”

IMG_9326I was delighted to discover that right across our street is a thriving metropolis of solitary bees (my guess is Halictus   EDIT: my guess was wrong! Thanks Erin! These are likely from the family Andrenidae). I was out taking some shots of these insects, when an elderly woman (from Italy I think) paused to look at what I was doing. I often get looks when photographing in public, so I explained how happy I was to see these bees right next to a community garden, and how cool it was to watch them work. She replied: “Too many bugs! Have to put down cement!”, and walked off.







I am sure the owners of this apple tree do not mind the bees!



BC Day Long Weekend part 2: Bees in the garden


A second feature of this past weekend was getting out to various gardens and plantings to see some flower visitors. I first stopped off at the Strathcona community garden, then some gardens near Commercial drive.


Early morning on Echinacea: often bumblebees don’t make it home in the evening, and I find them dew-wettened, clinging to the flowers they were visiting the previous evening. They are in no mood to fly in this state, and I get the opportunity to experiment with lighting.


With a diffused flash to the left, and a reflector card on the right, this bee gets the beauty treatment, despite her bad hair day!


For some reason, this bumblebee looks to me like she is enjoying a belly laugh.


The advantage of working with immobilized insects cannot be overstated. This shot mixes in the dawn light, hence the sunbeam!


I found a few other creatures in the garden, such as this awesome sac spider.


This flower longhorn was one of the few non-bee insects I ended up shooting at Strathcona.


Here is a dew-wettened honeybee on some kind of mint.


And a dry honeybee foraging on Echinacea.


Later, during the heat of the day, I went to Grandview Park near Commercial Drive. This is our native paper wasp, Polistes aurifer.


There were a whole lot of the introduced wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum) foraging and stalking on catmint. Here is a male on his lookout perch, where he watches for rivals and females to chase.


One of the few times they are still is during copulation, wherein the male violently grabs the female while she feeds. I believe the white tuft on the male tibia has something to do with shading part of the female’s eye.


They seem to be having a good time.



I do not normally chill insects, but this male I chilled for a short time to see what would happen. they are normally out on such hot days, it stood to reason they would be sensitive to chilling. This procedure allowed about a minute of shooting, and in not such terrible positions either.


Here he is, looking fierce and about to fly off.


Booty duty: this natural light shot shows a megachilid with a scopa full of pollen.


Pretty boy: finding the male of Agapostemon texanus is a wonderful thing. The combination of the striped abdomen and brilliant green is hard to resist. They would steal my heart from Coelioxys if they weren’t so damn fast!

Hymenoptera through the day


Bombus vosnesenskii, probably the most common bumblebee in Vancouver.

Here are a series of images I shot during the course of a summer day in Vancouver. All are hymenopterans, which, in addition to being tasty, are of course the best insects out there.


A nest I uncovered of Myrmica specioides, a recent introduction on the West Coast.


A big Megachilid.


Myrmica rubra against the sky (bribed with a bit of honey).


I have always wanted to get a shot of one of these chrysidid beauties. I believe it is Pseudomalus auratus.



A gorgeous Philanthus beewolf, showing just how much they really do love flowers.


A queen and workers of Myrmica rubra, the European Fire Ant.


Myrmica rubra tending aphids, a few of which appear to be mummies.


Ammophila wasps at sunset, shot with the 300 mm lens.


First Coelioxys of 2014!


I am so excited to have met up with (on Saturday) my favourite little bees, Coelioxys! Something about these streamlined little wonders is just so appealing to me. Of course, they were sleeping in their usual manner on the rainy morning, so I had good opportunities to play with the lighting.


Here is what a cluster of Coelioxys looks like, on a dead flower stalk.


Because of the rain, this one had quite a bit of water accumulated.


Like with the Ammophila yesterday, the water adds something to the already pretty texture.



For this shot and the one at the top, I used some hard light from the rear and to the right to make these droplets shine. The green streak is a plant stem in the background.


This bee is starting to wake, and grooming begins even before detaching her mandibles.


In the midst of waking up…


Now the bee is detached, and looking for a place to groom all this water off.


After a couple swipes with the feet, the thorax is drier.


This pretty little bee had a bit of a drier perch for the night.




Sleeping (Colletes) bees!


Yesterday was cold and wet at Iona Beach, where I set out for an insect photography walk. The conditions were a bit uncomfortable for me, but it was not raining so much that I could not use my camera. To make up for the wet misery, I found such a lot of cool things that it will take a series of blog posts to cover them all!

This subject came up as I was just leaving the beach, aiming to warm myself up in a hot shower when I glanced down and saw a little cluster of sleeping bees. Looking around on adjacent flowers, I found that there were 5 such clusters! This was too good to pass up, so I buckled down and started shooting despite the cold.

Here are a couple of the other clusters:



I am no expert on solitary bees, so I would love to know what these are. I initially thought they were Halictus, but I am beginning to wonder about that…Whatever they are, they are all males, as they have very hairy faces (most female solitary bees are all business in the front).

Update! These are apparently Colletes males. Thanks to John Ascher for the ID!

Having  such still subjects allows some experimentation with lighting and background…


Here they are against the overcast sky. This was a single diffused flash to the upper left of the cluster and a white bounce card held immediately to the right.


Here I have the diffused light to the upper right, and the bounce card behind (with a flash pointed at it) to blow out the background. In hindsight, maybe I should carry two cards!

Here I am using a single diffused light to the upper left, a bounce card to the right, and the background lit with the second flash using the Monster Macro Rig.


Here the setup is similar to the above, except the background is mostly dark and the second light throws hard light to the right and rear.


Sleeping bees are awesome…Now I have yet another search image burned into my brain for when I go out in the mornings and evenings!


As I urge you always, go out and find some sleeping Hymenoptera! They are great subjects for photography!

I mentioned that I had a good photography day at Iona Beach…Here is a hint at what comes next:





For macrophotography, no bees are better subjects than sleeping bees. When these normally busy Hymenoptera decide to turn in for the evening, it takes a lot to disturb them. Because of their single-mindedness, they make excellent subjects, and they can be found at a convenient time, such as the early morning (before work) and in the evening (after work). The leaf they are grasping can often be detached from the plant and then the whole setup can be posed with one hand while shooting with the other. If you are dextrous enough, you can even hold a white bounce card on the opposite side to your key light in order to provide some nice creamy fill.

I got the chance yesterday to try out some of these tricks with sleeping Nomada. The members of this genus are cleptoparasites of other bees, such as Andrena, meaning they seek out the other bees’ nests and oviposit within them. Then the Nomada larva consumes the provisions that the host laid in for her young. Nomada seems to be a tricky group to identify, and hence I cannot provide specific identifications, but I suspect all of these are in the Nomada ruficornis species group.

I hope you enjoy the photos!


Aiming the Monster Macro Rig toward some nearby vegetation produces a nice soft green background.


Aiming up produces a nice blue sky backdrop.


This is the result of positioning the same subject in front of a dandelion.


A bit of a different angle. You can see pollen adhering to the thorax, probably picked up while entering a host’s nest.


Here is another Nomada I found in the afternoon.You can see it is hanging on with just the mandibles.


This one was not fully committed to sleeping, so woke up and detached…


Providing the opportunity for another good angle!


A hairier and more robust individual.


Sleeping on a Snowberry leaf.


If you ever get the chance, go out and find some sleeping bees! You won’t regret it!



Early morning in Beacon Hill Park


The past week has been rather hectic, with a flood forcing Catherine and I from our home, paper revisions made and further plans for Honduran fieldwork underway. I did not get a chance to post these shots I took from our time on the Island, where I spent part of Sunday morning out shooting in the dry grasses of Beacon Hill Park.


I saw lots of moth eggs on the dry grasses.


Now is the time to find sclerotia of ergot (Claviceps spp.) which contains chemicals studied by Albert Hofmann (from which he synthesized LSD-25).


This sleepy robber fly was not as sleepy as I thought, and flew off after this shot.


The skipper was more accommodating.



A peacock stalks the Garry Oak meadow.


Coelioxys rufitarsus hanging from grass in the dawn light.




I tried a couple wider shots with the 18-55 on 11 mm of extension (around 24 mm focal length). This is something I would like to try more of…


Ruminations on the rain


It’s raining in Vancouver. I know, big surprise, right? Well, we have had a crazy unusual summer, with all of July hot and sunny. Life cycles of plants and animals accelerated, and the time has just flown by. The grasses in unwatered areas are dead or dormant, grasshoppers and craneflies are nowhere to be found, and I am sure the vole population has taken a hit.

But now it is raining.

Tonight, I had been sitting in front of a big ol’ spreadsheet, pondering an analysis that has not yet come to pass on a paper that I thought was finished (no worries though, Catherine and her mad R-skillz will help out).

Damn, the variables were half-renamed, and I didn’t wanna do it any more.


Before the light totally failed, I headed out to the community garden to take some pictures, raging out at a driver who almost ran me down in the crosswalk outside my house. Damn fools think it’s a freeway or something. I was angry and seething inside while I got to the park.

Time for some macro therapy.

The insects were dealing with the rain with various levels of success.


Some of the honeybees were totally soaked through and depressing, others seemed to soldier on.


I examined a bumblebee working a sunflower for a while; she did not seem to mind the rain, perhaps because of the generous overhang of the plant.


Then I looked down at the leaves of the plant and the yellowing and crispy husks reminded of the sad fact that the summer is slipping away.


In fact, we all know it, summer is short, even on the west coast of Canada. the Turkey Vultures are flying south, the Rufous Hummingbirds are gone, the vine maples up at school are starting to turn strange colours, and the termites are beginning to fly. My thesis is almost done, I need to defend in the fall, I have no job lined up, and a very tenuous plan for the future.  


On the plus side, I have a really cool paper which I hope will be published soon (wait for it! It is my biggie!), Catherine and I will do spider fieldwork next week, and I have plans to visit the caracaras in Honduras in the fall. Things are looking up, if I put it in that context. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am getting better at what I do, and I think the publication of my next paper will be well-received (because it is cool!).

In the meantime, the passing of the summer is just another turn of the season, and I actually love the fall. I should remember to try to get out more and enjoy it all while I can.



Cheapskate Tuesday 13: Little progress on the Salticid Startler®, but here are some more bees!

I have made little progress on the Salticid Startler®, owing to other commitments, but I have purchased some nail polish for the chelicerae and paint for the bodies. I will update when I make more progress. In the meantime, have a look at Mike’s new 50 mm 1.8L lens! Some creative work with red pinstriping and he has got about 2 bucks more on the resale value. He also has a great conversation piece!

And as an update to the Weekend Expedition post, here is some more video and pictures of the large Solitary Bee (I haven’t figures out if they are Colletes or Andrena) colony.


IMG_6093b IMG_6096b IMG_5946b IMG_6014b


Beeflies were standing by to parasitize the nests.