Marmalade beauties


Final approach

One of the most common hover flies in my garden is episyrphus balteatus. I am fairly confident about my identification in four of these shots. Less so in the one below.

insect macro


I believe episyrphus balteatus is one of the flies also known by the common name, marmalade fly. Obviously, this is because of its colour and not because it has a penchant for preserves!.

insect in flight

Making a bee, err … hoverfly, line

I think hover flies are a delightful addition to the garden. The adults feed entirely on nectar but the larvae are voracious predators of aphids, which makes them jolly useful! Episyrphus balteatus is also one of the best hover fly hoverers, making it a relatively easy target for the photographer.

insect macro

Hovering over candles?

Hover flies disguise themselves as bees or wasps as a defensive mechanism. Unfortunately, they are so good at this that many people assume they are bees or wasps and, if they think the latter, they tend to swat them. What a shame. Hover flies have no sting and no downside for humans. They aren’t even interested in our food.

insect macro


Bee fly returns


I love this time for year for many things, including the crab apple blossom that attracts a rather nice little seasonal character, bombylius major, the bee-fly.  I am perhaps slightly ridiculously fond of this little furry fly.  I did a post about it this time last year and you can see more images of it there.  These are three new ones, snapped in my garden this afternoon.

bombylius major

There’s just something about its little round, furry body, and the way it hovers… well, I am a ‘bug lady’ after all.

bombylius major

Come on admit it, it is cute.

Incredible flying bees

Carder bee on geranium
Despite the drop in temperatures over the last couple of days, the hardy carder bees have still been out and about, seemingly tougher than the honey bees who have almost disappeared. Believe it or not, this geranium is called ‘Jolly Bee’!
Agastache 'Blackadder'
They are still happily visiting carder bee heaven. I can now be more specific than my earlier identification of it as a member of the mint family; it is Agastache ‘Blackadder’.
bee on purple flowers
This one isn’t flying, but I liked the light so included it anyway.
bumble bee in flight
There were a few bumble bees about this morning. This is the first time I have seen them feeding on the solanum jasminoides flowers. Perhaps they are less fussy at this time of year when other flowers are fading. Look at that pollen sac! Amazing that it can fly at all.

Carder bee heaven

Garden colour and bee

It has been several days since a buggy post!  Most unlike me.  But never fear, the carder bees are here!  They have been very happy this weekend, enjoying the lovely warm weather among the late summer flowers in my garden.

bee on purple flowers

I have forgotten the name of this purple flower but no matter; it shall henceforth be known as carder bee heaven.

a carder bee in flight approaching purple flower

Making a bee line

It was rather special, sitting in the border surrounded by gorgeous late summer colour and hordes of very happy bees.

carder bee and purple flowers

Nearly there!

These small bumble bees are very cute.  Or is that just me?

a carder bee on purple flower

My favourite

This last shot isn’t quite as sharp as I would normally like but I just couldn’t help include it: geronimo!

a carder bee takes off from a purple flower

Heavy lifter

If you want to know my technique for shooting flying bugs, see my earlier post, In-flight entertainment where I reveal all my secrets!

Adding a bokeh background

Hoverfly in flight

I was pleased the other day to capture this little hoverfly in mid hover with the light captured in its wings.  However, the original shot wasn’t quite as nice.

The background is my patio.  It is smooth and doesn’t distract the eye away from the subject but it is not very pretty.  A lovely smooth green would have been ideal but the hoverfly ignored my polite request that it hover over the lawn.  So I decided to improve the shot with a little photoshop magic.

Homemade texture

I have a growing collection of what I call “garden bokeh” images.  They are easy to make. Just find a pretty flower bed and some dappled light and, using manual focus, twiddle the focus ring until you get something you like.  Then snap.  (I like the soft circles that a wide aperture brings – the above is f3.2 – but if you want harder shapes, go for a narrower aperture.)  After a bit of experimenting, I decided on this pink, white and green shot for my new background.  Then it was an easy matter of copying and pasting the bokeh image onto my original.  I usually experiment with various blend modes.  Depending on the look you are after, you are likely to end up using soft light, overlay, hard light, multiply or screen.  The last two have quite a defined impact: multiply will apply the shadows in the new layer whereas screen will apply the highlights.  The other three overlay all tones but with varying intensity.  In this case, hard light worked best.  If the bokeh had been more contrasty, a softer overlay would probably have been better. Then a small amount of black brushing where the new layer was slightly obscuring the hoverfly and, hey presto!

It’s really no different from using a texture, except the over-layer doesn’t actually have any texture, just soft bubbles of colour.

Is it cheating?  Not at all, in my opinion.  Both images were taken by me and it is no different from double exposing film or choosing a complementary background in a studio.  What do you think?

Gasteruption jaculator

This bizarre creature is gasteruption jaculator. Whoever named it should be banned forthwith from all future namings. I am grateful to afrenchgarden for the I.D. I was wrongly was calling it a sand digger wasp. I have never seen one in my garden before this year. Yesterday I noticed one feeding on fennel pollen but was unable to get a decent shot before it flew away. So, today, I returned to the fennel plant at the same time of day and, low and behold, there it was. And I was delighted to be able to capture it in flight!ammophila

It is an elegant creature with its long spike looking not unlike a cigarette holder from the 1920s (or is that just me?). I am assuming this is the female. Her consort, a much smaller beast without cigarette holder, is below. (It’s a lousy shot, I know, but illustrative.)


For an earlier post on other wasps found in my garden, see here.

Serendipitous bumble bee

Bumble bee in flight.

One of my faults as a photographer is my workflow management.  I snap away, loving the moment, upload a host of shots, pick the best one of the day and leave the rest to languish, neglected on my hard drive.  But sometimes I happen across a rejected shot and find I like it.  Perhaps such happy accidents make the chaos worthwhile.  Anyway, this afternoon I happened across this forgotten shot from the Spring, and I was glad.

Do you live, like me, in a state of photographic disorder, or are your files neatly honed, indexed, and double backed up?