Pollen in the pantry: print on sale through June 12th

While inspecting my beehives this morning, I was struck by the mosaic of differently-colored pollen packed in the brood nest. I quickly grabbed my camera, assembled an impromtu field studio, and took the following capture:


Bees mix incoming pollen with honey to form a sort of “bee bread” that serves as protein-rich food for developing larvae. The various colors reflect the source plants.

On uploading this image to facebook, several people inquired about prints. So I am temporarily bringing back the 70%-off sale pricing for just this photo, and just until June 12th. If you’d like pollen to hang on your wall, visit here and click the “buy” button:!i=2562848859&k=3BW9dj6

I recommend the lustre paper and the 3/4″ standout mount.

photo details:
Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon  EOS 7D
ISO 800, f/11, 1/250 sec
Single strobe bounced off white  surface overhead


Answer to the Monday Mystery: Ceratina

Who was our mystery blue bee?

A Ceratina small carpenter bee sends you greetings from the chives.

Five points to Alex Surcica for getting the genus, five points to Matt Bertone for picking the family (Apidae), and one point bonus point each to Alex Surcica, Étienne Normandin, and Rachel Graham for bravely attempting a species ID even though, as Doug Yanega noted on facebook,

Given the difficulty of species diagnosis in Ceratina, I’m not sure asking for the species name is much more than inciting a guess-fest.

Bees are classified in several sprawling families, and the trouble is that each seems to have its own fluffy grey bees, small metallic bees, yellow and black-striped bees, and so on. Convergence among unrelated lineages is rampant, and proper identification requires careful attention wing venation, tongue shape, and other obscure characters. Identification is not for the faint of heart, so naturally bees make great subjects for these mystery ID posts.



Bee Photography Course: June 21st


Most of my workshops are broadly designed for teaching macro photography. Thus, I am pleased to announce a fun and rather more specialized course, a day-long session on photographing honey bees:

Honey Bee Photography

June 21st (Friday), 2013
-full day-

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
Fairmount, Illinois
cost: $89

[register online]

The course is intended for beekeepers and bee enthusiasts with minimal photography experience. Course topics will include:

  • Magnification
  • Lighting
  • Composition
  • Photographing bees in the hive
  • Photographing bees in the field
  • Telling a story in pictures

Required equipment: (minimum) any camera, SLR or digicam, with a macro function; (recommended) camera with off-camera flash and macro near 1:1.

This workshop is the final day of a week long Beekeeping Institute taught by master beekeeper David Burns. People travel to David’s classes from all over the country. If you are thinking of keeping bees as a hobby, consider signing up for the full week. Otherwise you may elect to take just the photography bit.

Answer to the Monday Mystery

What was Monday’s orange fur? It was the rear end of a bumble bee:

Bombus bifarius, abdomen

Our winner for the week is, of course, bee biologist Polly Nator, to whom I’ll award 8 points for picking the structure, family, genus, and just missing the species by guessing its nearly-identical sister B. ternarius. I am also awarding 2 LOL points to Sara, who bravely ventured that it might, in fact, have been Big Bird.

Polly Nator is also our monthly winner, edging out Morgan Jackson’s 7 points from earlier in the month. Polly- email me for your loot!


Answer to the Monday Mystery

A drone emerges.

To answer Monday’s question, you needed to know two things: first, that the image showed honey bee drone larvae around day 9 of development; and second, the predictable timeline of honey bee development. Since drones take 24 days to mature, and the June 26th photographs was taken on day 9 or so, that would schedule adult emergence for around July 11, 2011.

No one guessed it exactly, and there was some confusion over whether these were really honey bees, or drones, or workers. But we had two guesses bracketing my estimated date by a day, so I’ll award 5 points each to Guillaume D. and to knackbock.

Monday Night Mystery: Take the Beekeeping Test

I am enjoying the exam-style challenges, so let’s close July with an excerpt from the IB496 “Introduction to Beekeeping” midterm exam. I will award 1 point per question to the first person who provides the first correct answer to each.

The cumulative points winner for the month of July will win their choice of 1) any 8×10-sized print from my insect photography galleries, or 2) a guest post here on Myrmecos.

Good luck!

1. What was Lorenzo Langstroth’s key discovery?
a. Smoke calms bees.
b. Respecting the “bee space” in hive construction leads to easily moveable frames.
c. Pressed wax foundation placed in frames encourages bees to build straight combs.
d. Queens and drones mate outside the hive.

2. Bees use a substance called propolis to seal cracks in their hive. What is it made from?
a. Collected plant resins
b. Secretions from the hypopharyngeal gland
c. Condensed honey
d. None of the above

3. Apis mellifera, the species used in most beekeeping, is just one kind of bee. Approximately how many other bee species exist worldwide?
a. 150
b. 4,000
c. 10,000
d. 20,000

4. The function of the nasonov gland is to produce:
a. An orientation pheromone
b. An alarm pheromone
c. Queen substance
d. Royal jelly

5. You’ve decided to become a beekeeper! Which of the following ways to obtain bees will give you the fastest population increase?
a. A nucleus hive
b. A 3-pound package of bees
c. A large captured swarm
d. A bait hive

6. You watch a bee in a garden collecting nectar in late summer. Of the following, which is her most likely age (= time since emerging from the pupa)?
a. Three days
b. Eight days
c. Twenty four days
d. Sixty days

7. Which symptoms indicate a failing queen?
a. Swarm cells
b. The pattern of capped brood is sporadic
c. The hive contains hundreds of drones
d. All of the above

8. While biking to your apiary you pass a field of blooming sunflowers about two miles away. Could your bees be gathering nectar there?
a. Yes, two miles is within a bee’s flight range
b. No, two miles is too far for small insects like bees to fly

9. At the end of winter, the cluster of bees will most likely be found in the hive:
a. At the front
b. At the back
c. At the top
d. At the bottom

10. The largest economic impact of beekeeping in the United States results from:
a. Sale of royal jelly
b. Sale of wax
c. Sale of honey
d. Pollination services

Resposta para o mistério segunda-feira: A Abelha Jataí

What was yesterday’s mysterious Ear Wax/Fry Bread challenge?

The Brazilians (Júlio Chaul, Bob Solar, Techuser, etc.) nailed it in a matter of, oh, seconds:

Tetragonisca angustula, the "Jataí" bee, is one of the few non-Apis bee species cultivated for honey production. Nests have a characteristic wax tube at the entrance.
A Tetragonisca angustula stingless bee works wax at the nest entrance.

As they should. Tetragonisca are common, widely-recognized insects in South America. I even used to keep a colony on my porch when I lived in Paraguay. They produced a lovely watery honey.

I was delighted to be able to photograph these little bees again in Brazil. For good reason. The last time I tried shooting a Tetragonisca nest was in 1998, before the photography bug bit me. I wasn’t very good. Look:

My pet stingless bees, c. 1998 (Paraguay)

I think I’ve gotten better.

Anyway. Next week’s challenge will be harder. I promise.