Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Bumblebee on blazing-star

with 36 comments

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 11th I managed to get one picture of a bumblebee on some flowering Liatris punctata var. mucronata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star. Maybe the bee is Bombus pensylvanicus. I’m no great shakes at identifying insect species, but at least I know how to spell Pennsylvania. (I can do Mississippi and Massachusetts, too. Woo hoo!).

⚛︎    ⚛︎
⚛︎    ⚛︎    ⚛︎
⚛︎    ⚛︎

I recommend three articles documenting the scourge of illiberalism that’s unfortunately been proliferating in the United States and other places.

1) “The New Puritans,” by Ann Applebaum, about the very real harms that cancel culture inflicts, from The Atlantic in August 2021.

2) “Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Their Freedom,” by linguistics professor John McWhorter, also in The Atlantic, from September 2020.

3) “How Critical Social Justice ideology fuels antisemitism,” by David Bernstein of The Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, from September 3, 2021.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2021 at 4:34 AM

36 Responses

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  1. Interesting to see the flower colour reflected in the bee’s eye – superb detail! I’ve just been doing a little bit of bee ID in my own garden too… 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    September 22, 2021 at 4:58 AM

    • The bee’s eye had picked up the color of the flowers but I hadn’t picked up on that colorful reflection till you reflected on it.

      So you’ve been carrying out B.I.D. in a bid to better know your garden’s insects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 5:47 AM

      • Yep, then I can try to see that I have flowers that suit them at the right times…a bee buffet! Hehe!

        Ann Mackay

        September 22, 2021 at 5:32 PM

    • In a comment below, Circadianreflections appreciated your noticing the reflected color in the bee’s eye.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 9:07 AM

  2. I’ve seen exactly one Liatris this year, for a variety of reasons — mostly that I haven’t been out and about. This is a pretty one, and the detailed view of the bumble bee is excellent.

    As one who’s constantly consonantly challenged, I wondered about that binomial. When I poked around, I discovered that BugGuide and the USDA spell the specific epithet with only one ‘n.’ On the other hand, in the list of synonyms shown on ITIS, that ‘n’ shows up both single and doubled: as if things aren’t confusing enough!


    September 22, 2021 at 8:41 AM

    • As recently as yesterday I spent time photographing several flowering Liatris spikes. I’ve yet to come across a good colony of them this year. We may head over to Bastrop tomorrow morning to see a couple of species that grow there but not here.

      What puzzles me is how the one-n pensylvanica got established in the first place, given how familiar a a word Pennsylvania is. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a misspelling of the state’s name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 9:04 AM

      • I wonder if the state’s name is easier for people to spell because of the association with William Penn. Also, places like Penn Station probably help to keep the spelling correct.


        September 22, 2021 at 8:16 PM

        • I’ve assumed that the connection to William Penn helps with the spelling of Pennsylvania. On the other hand, now that I think about it, I doubt many people today have ever heard of William Penn, even in Pennsylvania. I’d like to see a man-on-the-street series of interviews with people in Pennsylvania, asking them if they know who the state was named for, or if they know who William Penn was.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 22, 2021 at 9:17 PM

  3. The bumblebee is focused on the blazing-star ignoring the photographer in the distance.

    Peter Klopp

    September 22, 2021 at 9:02 AM

    • I took this picture with my 100mm macro lens, so there wasn’t all that much distance between the bumblebee and me. And now it occurs to me that “the bumblebee and me” has a nice sound to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 9:05 AM

  4. Wonderful detail and texture! I didn’t spy the flower color in the eye reflection either. Good catch, Ann!


    September 22, 2021 at 9:03 AM

    • I got just a single decent picture of the bumblebee: this one. The angle and an aperture of f/8 let me get the whole front in focus.

      I went back and pointed Ann to your comment about the reflection in the bee’s eye.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 9:11 AM

  5. Lol you caught a spelling error in an insect name.

    Alessandra Chaves

    September 22, 2021 at 9:57 AM

    • As that’s your field, have you come across any other mistaken names that have gotten codified?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 10:21 AM

      • As it turns out, you were not the first person to notice this. The link below answers the question, asked by another person.
        You might know this already, but taxonomic names in zoology are regulated by the Code of Zoological Nomenclature. That is what citations in the linked text “CZN, 1999: Article 32” refers to. A link to the “emendations” section of the code is below for your appreciation. https://code.iczn.org/formation-and-treatment-of-names/article-33-subsequent-spellings/?frame=1

        Alessandra Chaves

        September 22, 2021 at 12:33 PM

        • Thanks for doing the research. I figured I couldn’t have been the first person to notice the single n in pensylvanicus. What I didn’t know is how many times that spelling has gotten used for other species names.

          I read through the material in your second link and found it complicated. It seems you biologists are locked in.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 22, 2021 at 12:46 PM

          • We don’t have to know everything. Amongst us there are a few, usually older taxonomists who have a good background knowledge in Latin, Greek and name derivation, and who study the code judiciously and also participate in the ICN boards. Those are the folks we consult about names when we have a question. Unfortunately most of them have died or retired away during my lifetime as an entomologist.

            Alessandra Chaves

            September 22, 2021 at 1:14 PM

  6. Great detail on that shot, Steve. I was at Commons Ford today and saw both liatris and bumblebees, though not together.


    September 22, 2021 at 4:34 PM

    • The Liatris I stopped to photograph yesterday didn’t have any bumblebees on it, either. I haven’t been to Commons Ford since February 1st. Was there a lot of Liatris or any other wildflowers?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 6:53 PM

  7. What a beauty, I also have been focusing on bees in the garden recently. Ann was very sharp sighted to catch the reflected light.


    September 22, 2021 at 5:55 PM

    • I don’t know that I’ve ever seen as many bumblebees as I did that morning at the Wildflower Center.
      As a fellow Brit, you can revel in Ann’s observational powers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 6:56 PM

  8. In your hot Texas sun I think the bee is a blazing star as well.

    Steve Gingold

    September 22, 2021 at 7:07 PM

    • Well said!
      In Austin the temperature is finally supposed to drop to about 60° by tomorrow morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2021 at 7:26 PM

      • You must be the center of coolness. Here at @3 a.m. it is 70.

        Steve Gingold

        September 23, 2021 at 1:50 AM

        • Then this is one of those “temperature inversions” when you’re warmer than we are. When I checked the outdoor thermometer an hour ago it showed 59°. Woo hoo cool!

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 23, 2021 at 7:05 AM

  9. Excellent image, Steve. I’m all for anything that celebrates bees. 🐝

    Jane Lurie

    September 22, 2021 at 11:14 PM

  10. […] wasn’t only bumblebees I saw on the flower spikes of gayfeather (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) at the Lady Bird Johnson […]

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