Just because they are pretty …

bBee on feathery white flower
Honeybee visiting a Water Snowflake in the Palmetum lagoon

Most of my photography is documentary rather than artistic in that I am trying to take clear, self-explanatory photos of my subjects – insects, spiders, birds and so on – for scientific purposes rather than beautiful and evocative shots. It would be lovely if I could do both at once, of course, but I can’t choose  location and lighting or ask my subjects to pose for me and clarity is my primary goal.

Sometimes everything comes together and I end up with attractive and entomologically interesting shots, and other times I find myself with attractive shots which have no great scientific interest, such as these three. The top one was taken in October and shows a common (European) honeybee feeding on a common aquatic plant. The Water Snowflake (Nymphoides sp.) is part of a large family of waterlily-like plants whose leaves float on the surface of the water while the roots are anchored in mud below.

black and gold bee on pink flowers
Carpenter Bee feeding on Maiden’s Blush flowers beside Ross Creek

Maiden’s Blush, as I have said before, is much hardier than its name or appearance suggest. This one is flourishing in full sun beside Ross Creek (I took a photo of a butterfly on it back in May – click here to see it and read more about the park).

When I stopped there a week before Christmas the white mangroves along the creek were in full flower and I took several photos of them. It wasn’t until I got home and saw them at full size on the computer screen that I realised I had taken a photo of a tiny fly as well.

star-like white flower
White mangrove flower beside Ross Creek

I have been thinking about photography in more general terms lately because I spent a lot of time preparing a series of my non-wildlife photos for a gallery exhibition and then putting it on a virtual gallery here on Green Path. I have medium-term plans to add galleries of wildlife photos, chosen for their attractiveness more than their usefulness; meanwhile, the general offer here will have to suffice.

Carpenter bees

large bee approaching tree trunk
Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa sp., approaching nest

Australia’s largest bee is the Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa species. Females are black-and-gold monsters which are sometimes thought of as ‘Bumblebees’, although that name really belongs to an introduced species which has made itself at home in our southern states.

Carpenter Bees are solitary, like many other native bees, and they make nests by hollowing out chambers in soft wood. I have known them to use dead branches of our frangipani trees and, more recently, a dead branch of a small native tree (a ti-tree, if I remember correctly, but it has been dead for so long that I’m no longer sure). The nest holes are quite distinctive: a round hole the size of the tip of my little finger, as neat as anything I could do with a drill. The female provisions the cell with pollen as food for her offspring.

There’s a lot more about these bees at aussiebee.com, with photos which I must say are far better than mine. The best shot of all is this one showing buzz pollination in action. Amazing!

The very popular shrub

Black wasp on flowering shrub
Black wasp on the very popular shrub

I was walking down the roadway to the old car-ferry terminal (people who know Maggie Island will know where I mean, but it isn’t really important) and stopped at this bush because it was alive with a huge variety of insects. I stood there, snapping away as fast as I could aim the camera, and got pictures of:
Wasps: this one, another black-winged one with a yellow head, one with orange wings and legs and a black abdomen, one with orange wings and black-and-orange abdomen, and at least two black wasps with clear wings.
Butterflies: Common Eggfly, Eastern Brown Crow (Euploea tulliolus), a Pierid (yellow) I haven’t identified, and Australian Rustic (Cupha prosope)
Others: Carpenter bee, a large hairy grey fly, and a hover-fly with unusual black-banded wings. Continue reading “The very popular shrub”