Contentment in cherry blossom

Spring macro


On Friday afternoon I spent a couple of happy hours rediscovering my macro ‘eye’ by photographing bees on cherry blossom.  The light was bright and unpromising but I found a spot in the shade of a cherry tree where I could capture something of the softness and delicacy of the blossom.  I am not sure who was happier, me or the bustling bees.

The bigger picture

garden photography
A common approach with insect photography is to zoom in close, sometimes very close, to show the details not normally noticed by the naked eye. Sometimes it’s nice, however, to show the insect in a wider view, perhaps because it has settled on a particularly pretty flower or because the photographer wants to show the insect’s habitat. I think I come at my insect photography with the eye of an aspiring landscape photographer. I naturally tend to situate my insect subjects in a wider setting, where the background is as important as the insect. For me, although the top shot is pleasing, I prefer the version below, because I enjoy the background as much as I do the bee.
garden photography
In this last image, the bee provides a focal point, a starting and finishing place for the viewer’s eye that, hopefully, stops the picture becoming simply a ‘wallpaper’ image. But, for me, the real impact of this image is the gentle, muted colours of the out of focus border.
carder bee
What do you think?

Mystery plant revealed…

Carder bee hovering near spearmintA helpful friend on Facebook suggested the mystery plant from yesterday might be a member of the mint family so I went outside and did the leaf-rub test. Low and behold, and without a shadow of a doubt, it is spearmint. Thanks, Harry.
carder bee hovering over spearmint
I was pleased to find the following interesting, and apposite, minty mythology:

“Mint has been regarded as a symbol of Hospitality; ancient Romans strewed it around at feasts and banquets as a sign of welcome to guests.

The genus name Mentha comes from Greek Mythology. Legend has it that Menthe was a nymph who loved Pluto; when Pluto’s wife Persephone discovered this she turned the nymph into a mint plant.

It is also believed that the Ancients scoured their tables with this herb when preparing for the gods. Furthermore, the gods had fields of mint that bees used to make honey.

According to an ancient legend, Demeter drank a special drink called cecyon (kekyon) at Eleusis. This sacred drink of the Eleusine Mysteries was made by blending wheaten gruel with mint. Female initiates carried vessels of cecyon bound to their heads. The Greeks also believed that mint increased love-making. Moreover, mint, rosemary and myrtle were used in the final preparations of the dead in ancient Greece.”

carder bee on spearmint flowers I like it that the gods grew fields of mint for bees. They knew a thing or two, because the bees really do love these flowers! (Although I haven’t noticed any honey bees on them yet.)
carder bee on spearmint flowers
Carder bees are smallish bumble bees and they make their nests in old mammal burrows or tussocks of grass. They have a reputation for being feisty if their nest is threatened but while foraging in the garden they are as harmless as any other bumble bee. In fact, even more placid in my experience.
carder bee on spearmint flowers
For more information on carder bees see here.

Backlit bee

I love shooting macro into the light. You never know quite what you’re going to get, which is a huge part of the fun. In this image, I enjoy the rim lighting on the bumble bee as it visits verbena bonariensis in my garden. Incidentally, if you are looking to plant for wildlife, this verbena is a must.

Tiny solitary bee

This little bee is only slightly larger than a garden ant. There are more than 200 species of solitary bee in the UK and I have to declare I am stumped when it comes to identifying this little beauty. Any experts out there? Whatever its name, I think it is a very fetching little critter with its metallic green livery and pollen breeches.

Angels with dirty faces

Bees are super pollinators. We all know that. But sometimes the evidence is as plain as the nose on your face or, to be a little more literal, the pollen on their face.

Just a little on this busy honey bee, but what about the bumble bee in the next image?

Sometimes I wonder how they can even see where they are going.

I couldn’t resist using the title of the classic Cagney, Bogart, O’Brien movie for these images. Classic movie, classic critters.