It’s Sept already, summer is gone and I didn’t get much time to wander the city taking photographs. I did get a some decent bee photos so all wasn’t lost. Bees don’t really care if you lurk around taking photos of them and by and large ignore any pesky photographer. I’m using a standard kit lens that came with my Canon Rebel which doesn’t have the best zoom abilities. I have to exercise a great deal of patience when trying to photograph small objects, especially those that zip about on wings. I spent nearly an hour stalking different bees recently. Out of nearly 100 photos, I came out with 4 or 5 that were publish worthy. The rest were blurs of activity.
These photos were taken at Ramsden Park (Yonge St across from Rosedale subway station) and Queen’s Quay’s flower gardens. The bumble bee was in the flower patch in front of my apartment building though.
Here’s the first Portrait of a Bee Ignoring the Irritating Human:
Bees seem to love purple flowers
Not sure why, but they all seem to be drawn to purple flowers. If I spot a patch of purple, I’ll bee line to the flower patch to check out the activity. I’m never disappointed. The colours were pretty good and the bee photographed nicely. Not as sharp as I wanted but I was content with it.
Here’s a closer look at the bee
This next photo was a bit blown out, colour wise. I had a hard time adjusting for the sun’s intensity that day. I’m still working at mastering camera settings so they are second nature. The bee came out pretty good though.
Too busy working to care about me
I was super excited about the wing clarity on the next bee photo.
Beautiful translucent wings on this one.
The wings are gorgeous. I’ve tried repeatedly to get clear photos of bee wings. Their delicacy is breathtaking. But, they are rarely still long enough. I got really lucky this time. I was happy with the colour balance and exposure as well. The hairs and eyes were pretty sharp too.
The garden’s outside the building I live in is alive with bumble bees. Every plant is loaded down with them. I stalked around the garden for nearly an hour in August trying to get good shots. I especially like the colour combination on this one.
Bumble bee working away on the flower
I was so close to this particular bumble bee I’m surprised she didn’t come up and sting me. She just worked away and ignored me. The eyes came out nicely. I feel like I could reach out and pat her.
And finally, the one that made me the happiest.
The details on this photograph still surprise me
No idea how I managed it, but I finally captured a bee with stunning (for me) sharpness and clarity. The little hairs on her back are wonderfully clear. It was brilliantly sunny out. I really struggled with the sun’s intensity that day. Many of the photos were washed out, with the purples looking anemic. I adjusted settings over and over until I got this. F11 1/500 ISO 100 if you’re curious.
Love the details on the flower petals as well. I can usually get the flower focused or the bee, but rarely the two at the same time. Bonanza with this photograph. I’m thinking of getting this one framed for my wall. It gives me a big high water mark to strive for in future photographs.
I’m hoping Sept is a bit better for getting out around the city. So many places to go and so little time lately.
International Bee Day for May 20th
I’m not sure if Canada Post will have a new bee stamp for International Bee Day for May 20th, but they issued a couple of interesting ones last year.
These two stylized permanent stamps (forever stamps) were released May 1st 2018 and they’re kind of cool. Designed by Andrew Perro and illustrated by Dave Murray, the stamps show a bumble bee (currently on the endangered species list in Canada) and a metallic green bee, which is a type of sweat bee in all it’s vivid colours.
The stamps come in singles, a booklet of 10 stamps and a First Day Cover:
The cancel on the FDC is great! They did a good job on this set although there isn’t a lot of room for the address.
First day cover
They can still be purchased via Canada Post’s online shop.
If you want to learn a bit more about bees and International Bee Day, and look at a couple of bee photos, check out the article I wrote to accompany this post – International Bee Day is Coming
Bees are fun to watch and don’t get me get started on the whole “beneficial bug” thing. You might be here for hours. I grew up surrounded by people who would kill any bee that dared buzz near them or drench their gardens in shocking amounts of pesticides. Hopefully this “kill it, kill it” thinking isn’t so common. Our future survival is intertwined with buzzy little bees. In 2017, the UN declared May 20th World Bee Day to help foster recognition of the vital role bees play in the chain of life.
World Bee Day isn’t to be confused with World Honey Bee Day held Aug 17th. Not all bees are honey bees by the way. If you aren’t up on the diversity within the bee family, check Wikipedia’s pretty decent page. This May, set aside the 20th to learn a bit more about bees, their diversity in design and the beauty of watching them hover around the plants in your garden.
“Bees play a crucial role in increasing crop yields and promoting food security and nutrition. Without them, we could lose a variety of food such as potatoes, pepper, coffee, pumpkins, carrots, apples, almonds, tomatoes, just to name a few. In short, without bees, FAO cannot achieve a world without hunger. World Bee Day recognizes the importance of these tiny helpers and will increase awareness of the need to protect them.”
Carla Mucavi, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations worldbeeday.org
And now a few random bee photos
I spend a lot of time trying to photograph bees, with a very low success rate. I figured that if I focused on a single blossom and waited (and waited) eventually I’d be able to grab a decent photo or two. I have a scattering of presentable photos as a result. Despite hours of getting up close photos of bee bums, I’ve never been stung. Bees simply ignore me and get on with their job. It’s surprising how close you can get to them.
I think the last two are honey bees but I could be wrong. My bee identification skills rank right up there with my mushroom identification skills. There is a staggering variety within the bee-verse in North America alone – honey bees, bumble bees, orchard bees, mining bees, mason bees, blueberry bees, squash bees, sweat bees, hoverflies. Some bees sting, some don’t. Some collect nectar, some are predatory. Some are parasitic, some are beneficial. Some look vaguely like honeybees, some look exotic … oh my, the specialization. According to the Brampton Bee Keepers Association, there are over 800 varieties of bees in Canada, and between 20,000 to 25,000 worldwide. And they are under threat around the globe.
Collect stamps? Check out my post on Canada’s Bee Stamps
My favourite is the humble bumble bee, but they aren’t as plentiful as they used to be. I didn’t spot more than a dozen all summer. The reason is pretty depressing – bumble bees are listed as a species at risk in Canada.
Photo of a bee on purple flowers taken Sept 2014 David Balfour Park – previously posted June 14, 2016
Bees and thistles in the ravine – Toronto – previously posted Aug 6, 2017
Those are my best photos, and I’m aiming to do a lot this summer. I have a ravine filled with wild flowers close by offering plenty of opportunity.
Want more info on bees?
- If you want to learn more about bees in Canada, check out this list from the Brampton Bee Keepers.
- To hone your identification skills, try How to Identify Bees
- Bees on the Species at Risk list, refer to Wildlife Species Canada.
- David Suzuki – Love bees, especially the wild ones can be found here https://davidsuzuki.org/story/love-bees-especially-the-wild-ones/
- Some cool info on European honey beeshttp://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/BEES/euro_honey_bee.htm
- Bees in Australia http://beekeepers.amazingbees.com.au/european-honeybees.html
- Bees in the UK https://friendsoftheearth.uk/bee-count/great-british-bee-count-bee-identification-guide
- Bee keeping in India https://www.farmingindia.in/beekeeping-in-india-honey-bee-farm/
- European Red List of Bees is a lengthy article on European bees, their importance and severe problems facing their survival – http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/redlist/downloads/European_bees.pdf
If you have a good bee resource, post it in the comments below.
Can you stand more insect photos?
Chased him for quite a while. Ended up picking thistles out of my shirt. Worth it though.
Pottered around this afternoon in the ravine behind David Balfour Park. Lots of green and buggy things down there to enjoy. Far too many of the 2 legged creatures today using the paths so no chance of catching any wildlife. Still a nice day, all in all.
I’ve decided to save for a better camera in the fall. I’m currently using a Canon PowerShot SX130, which is a pretty decent point and shoot camera, but it’s frustrating if I want to set up a close up shot. The macro zoom sucks. I’ve given up on it. It takes forever to set up close ups and is severely restricted in how close (especially with macro) I can actually get. Second issue is the view screen. I can’t see close up very well so it’s kind of irritating setting up shots at weird angles because the screen is pretty much a big blur. I’m going to see if a Canon with a swivel view screen is in the budget. Also, the new camera must have a better colour balance – this is a MUST. I find the Powershot, although fun to use, often bleaches out colours. The greens are never quite right and lean more towards a bluish tint, which I’m constantly correcting with Photoshop. A proper DSLR camera will also let me pop filters onto the lens to compensate for intense sunshine. Hopefully cloud cover will come out with more depth.
I’m thinking of sticking with Canon and hopefully will find one in my bracket. Henry’s Cameras usually has a good selection of used DSLR and lenses. I also need read up on f stops. Fussing with it on the PowerShot seems to be a lesson in futility – does bugger all. It’s pretty limited in what it can do. Oh and the biggy on my wish list? Better control over focus. I’m tired of the camera trying to pick the focal point. I end up with more blurry shots than I can count. I’d prefer to be able to manually focus. The Canon PowerShot says it has manual, but it’s more a glorified “point and we’ll help you focus” kind of focus. Also be nice if the ISO were a bit more sensitive so night photos would actually look decent. Lots of research to do. I’m a bit wobbly with the mechanics of DSLR cameras and the ins and outs of photography. Time to educate myself about fstops and iso settings so I know what I’m actually doing.
In the meantime, here are a couple of photos from today.
It took me forever to catch this moth. Well, okay, not forever, but it felt like it. Taking a photograph of these little white moths is like trying to bottle a will-o-wisp. They flit about so quickly, plus my camera really does stink at close ups. Got a lot of great shots of blurry white spots on thistles! Want to see those?
No idea what this bug is, but he’s a beauty. Quite large too.
Not sure what it is. Could be a cicada. My bug identification isn’t that good. I’m an admirer of insects, but an amateur at identifying them.
This shot I call Incoming! For obvious reasons.
Didn’t even know the bee was in the shot until I got home and looked at the photos. Lucky shot. I took the photo because I liked the contrast between the greens, reds and white. The funny part is I had spent nearly 15 min trying to catch a shot of a bee on the plants and had, by this time, given up. I did get some great shots later, but it is a bit funny.
Still parsing through the photos and will share more this week. So enjoy. I’ll be loading more shots on my Instagram account, so pop over there to take a look https://www.instagram.com/bittergrounds2016/