Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bee

A bitterweed bud and bloom and beyond and a bee

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It’s been a couple of years since I showed you the common wildflower known as yellow bitterweed, Helenium amarum var. amarum. The native-bee-bedecked portrait above is from August 18th in Round Rock. At the same time I took what I believe are my first pictures ever of a bud in this species, so here’s one of those:

Toward the opposite end of the development cycle, here’s what a seed head looks like when it’s decomposing:

Many parts of the United States are experiencing a summer drought now. People longing for cooler and wetter times may find the following cold-weather fact welcome, and probably also surprising: if a lake has a solid covering of ice 12 inches deep, an 8-ton truck can drive on it. If you want to know how much weight other thicknesses of ice can bear, check out this chart. Notice that the relationship isn’t linear: doubling the thickness allows the ice to bear a lot more than twice the weight.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Two takes on sensitive briar

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From July 13th in northwest Austin, here are two takes on sensitive briar that relegate the flowers to secondary roles. In the first photograph, pride of place goes to the buds of the species, Mimosa roemeriana. In the second portrait, the color of the flowers works well to complement the iridescent green of a busily working metallic sweat bee (sorry, I don’t know what species.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 10, 2020 at 4:38 AM

And on the Lindheimer’s senna…

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Visiting the Lindheimer’s senna flowers (Senna lindheimeriana) that you saw last time were various kinds of insects, including several small metallic sweat bees.

For a closer look at the pollen-gatherer, click below to enlarge an excerpt from another frame.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 1, 2018 at 4:41 AM

Bumblebee on fireweed flowers

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From August 30th in Glacier National Park, here’s a bumblebee on some fireweed flowers. The way the bumblebee flitted about on the fireweed reminds me now of the way botanists have been flitting about in some of their classifications. They’ve dubbed fireweed Epilobium angustifolium, Chamerion angustifolium, and most recently Chamaenerion angustifolium. Oh well, that which we call fireweed, by any other name would have flowers that look as good—assuming you’re close enough. After one view of wilted flowers and another of fresh ones from a bit of a distance, you’re finally getting a proper look at some fireweed flowers.

If you’d like to see the many places that fireweed grows in North America, check out the zoomable USDA map. I’d thought of this as a species from the Northwest and Canada and Alaska, and so was glad to finally encounter it on this trip. Now I’m surprised to learn that fireweed grows in 38 out of the 50 states in the United States. That range doesn’t include Texas but it does include Long Island, where I grew up.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2017 at 4:34 AM

Rocky Mountain beeweed

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As if to corroborate the common name Rocky mountain beeweed, I found a native bee on these flowers of Cleome serrulata at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in northern New Mexico on June 12th. An online article about this species notes that other vernacular names for the plant are stinking-clover, bee spider-flower, skunk weed, Navajo spinach, and guaco. This wildflower is a relative of the clammyweed that grows in Austin.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 20, 2017 at 4:50 AM

A floral balance at Kasha-Katuwe

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In addition to balanced rocks at Kasha-Katuwe in northern New Mexico on June 12th, here’s a balanced jimsonweed flower (Datura wrightii). Note the tiny native bee on the left side of the flower.

I’d pulled off to the side of the entrance road to photograph the jimsonweed and had barely gotten out of my car when a tribal policeman stopped his patrol car to see what I was up to. I guess very few visitors pull over at a place that doesn’t offer a view of the rock formations.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2017 at 4:48 AM

One green succumbs to another

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Green Lynx Spider with Killed Bee on Goldenrod Flowers 7796

Remember the metallic green sweat bee that I photographed on my hand in Arkansas three months ago? On September 1st at Southeast Metropolitan Park I found a similar bee that had fallen prey to a green lynx spider, Peucetia viridans. The yellow of some goldenrod (Solidago spp.) that was already flowering added to the colorful if ghastly scene. In fact it was the goldenrod flowers that I’d stopped to photograph, and then when I got close I discovered the spider and bee on them.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2016 at 5:02 AM

Like a sand dune

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Metallic Green Bee on the Palm of My Hand 8821

It may look as if this little metallic green bee had come to rest on the crest of a sand dune with a desert storm threatening to blow in from beyond. Actually the landing place was the heel of my left hand, which with difficulty I twisted around to make the bee parallel to the sensor in the camera that I held in my right hand and took photographs with. (Oh, unorthodox me, but I did get pictures of the bee.)

Like the last several photographs, this one is from the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, on June 20.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2016 at 4:58 AM

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Freeloading

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Dark Fly, Dead Bee, Dead Spider on Tatalencho 8237

When I was happily photographing tatalencho (Gymnosperma glutinosum) at Wild Basin on October 27th I came across this little drama that I had trouble understanding. Most conspicuous was the dead bee whose head-down posture on the flower stalk made it look like an airplane that had nose-dived into a crash-landing. We have to assume the bee had met its demise thanks to the spider that now too was upside down and immobile, and that I took to be dead as well. Standing on the bee’s upraised rump was by far the tiniest of the creatures in this arthropodal ménage à trois, a dark insect that appeared to be biting or sucking the tip of one of the spider’s upraised legs.

I e-mailed for help, which came quickly. From entomologist Alex Wild at the University of Texas I learned that the dark little insect is “a freeloader fly (probably Milichiidae or Chloropidae, hard to tell from the photo), taking advantage of the spider’s kill. As Joe [Lapp] said, this is a fairly common phenomenon, but since the flies are so small it is often overlooked.”

I also heard back from local expert Val Bugh: “The spider is not dead, it’s busy eating and crab spiders prefer to remain still, especially when their prey blocks them from view. The black fly, commonly called a freeloader fly (family Milichiidae) is actually just standing on the bee’s butt — it only looks like its face is touching the spider’s leg because of the angle. Really, the mouth of the fly goes down and it is probably waiting to scavenge some droplets while the spider feeds (or it is wondering whether or not it needs to leave because there is a big, scary camera pointing at it). Usually, spiders and other predators just ignore these little flies, which might walk all over both the predator and its victim.”

Joe Lapp added some more: “I think I’ve only ever seen this once on the prey of a spider other than a crab spider. I think crab spiders are preferential because they don’t masticate their prey like most do. Instead, they inject digestive fluids into holes and slurp out the yummy insides. That leaves opportunity for flies to go to town unharmed. I wonder if the venom or enzymes also assist the flies. In my mind, the wild thing is that these flies show up before the prey begins decaying.”

So there you have the explanation for this curious sight.

———–

I’m away for a few days. You’re welcome to leave comments, but it may take me a while to answer.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2015 at 5:06 AM

Green and yellow, kill a fellow

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Green Lynx with Killed Bee on Goldenrod 6571

On September 29th near the intersection of E. Stassney Ln. and Burleson Rd. in southeast Austin, I photographed some flowering goldenrod plants (Solidago spp.), among the first good ones of the season. On one plant I noticed a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) that had killed a bee (I don’t know what species). Those of you who aren’t arachnophobic and would like an enlargement of the fatal encounter may click the following icon.

Green Lynx with Killed Bee on Goldenrod 6571A

After I’d taken a few pictures of the spider, a sharp feeling on the skin of one leg suddenly made aware that I’d been standing on a fire ant nest, so I had to give up trying for any more views of this little drama.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2015 at 4:58 AM

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