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.