Bring on the bees

It’s prime time for summer flowers, and the bumblebees and honeybees are making the rounds carrying pollen from one flower to another and sipping nectar as their reward.

Tubular flowers of red bee balm (Monarda) are perfect for a slender honeybee or the long tongue of butterflies and hummingbirds. The nectar is deep down at the base of the flower, so it’s an effort for a small bee to get there.

Lead plant flowers open sequentially on a long raceme (flower stalk) exposing their yellow orange anthers to wandering bumblebee that collect and store pollen in sacs on their hind legs.

Milkweed flowers have special requirements of their pollinators — they need to stick their legs down slits in the female (pistil) parts of the flowers and drag out the pollen sacs (pollinia) on their hind legs. The slender leg of a honeybee is the perfect vehicle for this operation.  When they wander onto the next flower, the pollinia will get transferred as the bee’s leg drops into the appropriate slot.  To read more about how this is done, click on this link.

Bees love the pollen of the Cup Plant, a tall composite (daisy) with an abundance of bright yellow flowers.  Later in the summer, the Goldfinches will appreciate the fruits (well, seeds) of these pollinating efforts.  

In the fall, Goldfinches dissect the Cup Plant flowers, pulling the seeds right out of the flower head. Fortunately, there is a great abundance of flower heads to work on, and there are plenty of seeds left for the plant to fill up by backyard garden with its progeny.

7 thoughts on “Bring on the bees

  1. Beautiful shots, Sue, of all those bees on the amazingly colorful flowers. You captured such wonderful details on both the bees and the flowers that I wonder if you were using a macro lens.

    • Thanks, Mike. I am using almost exclusively now the Sony RX10iv camera with 24-600 mm (Full frame) zoom. I have ditched Big Bertha with the Tamron 150-600 heavy weight set-up for the lightweight, versatile Sony RX10. The images were shot with 400 mm telephoto, and the camera works like a macro, allowing close approach to the subject. Sony uses a Leica lens in this camera, so it gives crisp detail. Thanks for asking!

      • Thanks for the details, Sue. Most of the super zoom cameras suffer from having small sensors, slow focusing, and small buffers, but as I recall your Sony offers great performance in overcoming all of those issues with a quality lens, bigger sensor, and excellent focusing system. Have you tried photographing birds in flight with your RX10 iv?

        • Oh yes, tried and tried, with some success now and then, if they fly slow enough. The Black Terns in flight were shot with the Sony RX10. ( If you look at the video at the end of the post, it was stitched together from individual images (new thing in Windows). I took about 46 of the images I shot of the tern’s flight as it came toward me at the Sony’s fastest frame rate (24 fps), and the auto-focus tracked it beautifully. The key with that camera and the Canon I have used in the past is to shoot the bird against a plain background, so the focus points don’t suddenly grab onto a tree the bird is flying next to. I now have a pretty good technique for doing it, but it has to be exactly the right background.

  2. Fascinating! I love to watch the bees wiggle themselves into a flower to gather pollen. We have an abundance of Milkweed in our backyard… I’d love to observe the bees inserting their hind legs in the flowers. 🐝

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