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Dropping in for a visit

This morning I hiked into the Capitol Forest to photograph bees. I found a few, but nothing I didn’t expect. Several species of Bombus and one species of Melissodes frolicked in the bull thistles; a few honey bees sampled the cat’s-ear.

I was heading home along an old logging road that is steep and graveled—marbles on a sliding board—when suddenly my feet flew out from under me. Instead of trying to catch myself, I instinctively cradled my camera in my arms and let my body land where it would, which happened to be on my tailbone. Damn, that hurt.

It’s funny how we are: cameras and lenses are easily replaced, tailbones not so much. Yet we have an instinct to preserve stuff over health, which I will never understand. It must be bred in the bone, as they say.

Anyway, I sat there for a minute assessing the damage when I noticed holes all around me. It seems I had landed in a bee community. I was awestruck: I have walked those roads hundreds of times looking for bee tunnels, and I have never seen a single one. And now, quite by accident, I had dropped into the center of town.

Since both my camera and my backside were all of a piece, I began to photograph the holes. After a while I got worried that maybe I was wrong: maybe the cute little tunnels belonged to ants or something equally unsavory. Curious, I peeked into one of the holes. Someone peeked back.

Moments later a small bee landed near me. I haven’t yet verified her identity, but I believe she was a species of Lasioglossum. She was about a half-inch long with a shiny dark green tint—one of those high-end paint jobs where you can see your reflection. She was upset at my visit (I think I crushed some entryways) and she began digging furiously. Occasionally, she fell backwards down the sloped surface, then she would right herself, run back up, and dig some more. When I finally left the little community, she was still hard at work and covered with dirt from stem to stern.

For some reason, my bee (mis)adventures always go this way. When I’m looking for bees I never find them, but when I’m not paying attention, there they are.

Update: John Ascher of Bugguide.net identified the bee in the photo as Lasioglossum subgenus Dialictus, just in case you were wondering.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Perfect little entrance holes leading to bee tunnels. © Rusty Burlew.
Perfect little entrance holes leading to bee tunnels. © Rusty Burlew.
Someone peeking at the peeker. © Rusty Burlew.
Someone peeking at the peeker. © Rusty Burlew.
The bee begins to rebuild her entryway. © Rusty Burlew.
The bee begins to rebuild her entryway. © Rusty Burlew.
Even though this bee is covered in dirt, you can still see my reflection in every segment of her shiny abdomen. © Rusty Burlew.
Even though this bee is covered in dirt, you can still see my reflection in every segment of her shiny abdomen. © Rusty Burlew.

Comments

Scrap Iron
Reply

You didn’t fall, the bees tripped you. They just wanted to mug for the camera.

Rusty
Reply

I wondered about that. I think they strung a wire across the road.

Lori
Reply

It’s the zen of bee hunting! Once you stop looking you find what you were looking for….or so they say!

aaldahri
Reply

Hi. I like honey bee and your web. Does that mean bee can make their hive under ground same as the ant.

Rusty
Reply

Yes and no. Most species of bees live underground, but they live either alone or in small groups. Ants live in massive colonies underground. The big ant colonies are similar in many ways to honey bee colonies, but honey bee colonies are usually above ground.

The underground bees don’t build a hive as such; it is more like a nest with several or maybe dozens of bees per nest, but not thousands. On the other hand, hundreds or even thousands of individual nests may all be near to each other in one location.

Christy
Reply

I truly hope you enter your last picture into a photo contest. While I always love the pictures you post, I think the last one with your reflection in her body segments is amazing.

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Christy!

aaldahri
Reply

Thank you Rusty

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