Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Playing with Solitary Bees

Disclaimer: If you are allergic to honeybee stings then you should avoid close contact with all bee species! Most solitary bees are nonaggressive and you’d really have to manhandle one of the females to get stung (the males don’t have stingers) , but an allergic reaction to the venom could be fatal. If you’ve never been stung before then you’re at risk –you could be allergic and not know it…

As soon as the temperatures in the early spring hit 14C (~57F) for a few days then go looking for solitary bees. They are already starting to emerge here in Naples, Italy and with the cool weather they’re not as hyper active as they will be in the summer months. I found one recently feeding on flowers that were partially closed, so I’d grab onto the flower’s stem with my left index finger and thumb, brace the MPE-65mm macro lens on my hand (dialed in to 3x), and wait for the critter to stick its head out. I’d get about two or three seconds to frame and fire…

Bee in a Cup by =dalantech on deviantART

Bee in a Cup II by =dalantech on deviantART

…before the bee would either feel or see the heat coming off of my hand and crawl onto it to warm up.

My Pet Solitary Bee 09-1 by =dalantech on deviantART

My Pet Solitary Bee 09-2 by =dalantech on deviantART

All solitary bees will do a little cleaning up before moving from one flower to the next, and this one would brush pollen off of its eyes and antenna before leaving the warmth of my hand to go to the next flower. I must have played with this little 6mm long bee for a good 20 minutes. I didn’t get many keepers because it was constantly in motion, but I did get some valuable experience on their habits :)
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