wild bees and native bees

Plays well with others, not

Bumble bee and berry bee share a flower.

When Honey Bee Suite was only a few months old, several of my friends told me the site was too “text heavy” and needed more photos. At the time, I was extremely discouraged by this news. After all, I began a blog because I wanted to write, not because I wanted to take pictures.

Nevertheless, I began working on it and slowly accumulated a photo library. Capturing good bee portraits is not easy, but I found that the harder I worked the luckier I got. Since those early days, photography has become one of my favorite parts of blogging and I spend many hours in pursuit of the perfect bee photo.

“I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”
― Thomas Jefferson

The photo below, while not perfect, is the result of one of those rare moments when everything comes together. The little green berry bee was on a blackberry and I was trying to get her in focus, end to end. As I depressed the shutter button, a kamikaze-style bumble bee came out of the sky and rammed the berry bee. In an instant everyone was gone. Discouraged, I went looking for another berry bee.

Traumatic bee battles happen all the time. While I’ve spent many days among the flowers, I’ve noticed big bees attack little ones, and vice versa. I’ve seen honey bees attack natives, and vice versa. Even bees of the same species chase each other away. These encounters nearly always leave the flower empty, so it’s not so much the attacking bee wants that particular flower as much as it wants the other bee to leave. They seem to have the “I don’t want it, but you can’t have it” mindset.

When I was done shooting for the day, I went inside to look over my photos. It was then that I discovered this photo. Somehow, the attack happened at the very instant I pressed the button, and somehow everyone is more or less in focus. Serendipity at its best.


Bumble bee and berry bee share a flower.

The berry bee, Osmia aglaia, was minding its own business when the bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, dove in for the attack. The gray pollen is characteristic of blackberry flowers. © Rusty Burlew.


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