Behind the Photo: A Native Bee in the Prairie Garden

A Lasioglossum sweat bee.

Our house in Urbana hosted a standard urban lawn when we moved in a few years back. Grass. A few dandelions. It was mowable, but not exciting otherwise.

To spice things up, I’ve been replacing the lawn with native plants. In early summer, our yard is now a colorful meadow:

Black-eyed susans, prairie milkweed, New England aster, ironweed, blazing star, and other native plants grow in the garden under the watchful eyes of Mingus the Cat.

The garden has benefits beyond mere aesthestics. Our homegrown prairie patch provides a wealth of opportunities for pollinator photography. The Lasioglossum sweat bee is one of many images I’ve taken on the black-eyed susans. These easy yellow asters seeded across the meadow from a single pot I transplanted in 2010.

Photographing pollinators well requires doing more than just pointing a camera at a bee and snapping away. A key aspect of the top photograph is its low angle. By crouching down to bee height and shooting up, I captured a perspective that transforms a seemingly insignificant bee into a larger-than-life animal, one worthy of the respect our increasingly troubled native pollinators deserve.

If you’d like a print, the native bee photograph is one of 30 I’ve included in the Holiday Print Sale, running until January 1.

photo details:
Canon MP-E  on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 200, f/13, 1/200 sec
Lit with diffuse off-camera twin flash

6 thoughts on “Behind the Photo: A Native Bee in the Prairie Garden”

  1. LOVELy shot, wow. And your yard (and kitty) looks AMAZING! I have become SO addicted to cool bugs in my garden that the beautiful burgundy amaranth that I grew this year, which was apparently a TOTAL SNORE to local pollinators, will not be planted again. And then I spent $35 on native milkweed seeds. =) It’s the classic win-win-win. Win for natives, win for beauty & easy care, and win for people who stalk their garden w/camera in hand. Nice work!

  2. Nice! Is that Asclepias sullivantii I see. I have it on good authority (Steve Malcolm, Western Michigan U.) that one has very highcardenolide content among all the milkweeds in the region, and is thus extremely emetic. I advise against taking a nibble.

      1. The unopened flower clusters to Asclepias syriaca can supposedly be cooked just like Broccoli… though I read you have to change the boiling water three times to remove the bitterness.

      2. James C. Trager

        I’d say chew on one that is less emetic. Actually, I hear the spring shoots when less than 10cm high, of A. syriaca are also supposed to be edible, with only one boiling, though I’ve never tried ’em. The green fruits before the formation of the “coma” or silks, too.
        A long time ago, I had a professor who was making cardenolide extractions from various milkweeds and noticed clear crystals formed in the extracts. Turns out they were sucrose, which in common milkweed is present in about the same concentration it is found in sugar cane. No wonder so many bugs have come to like the stuff. It’s a great energy source.

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