I was listening to an episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage that was discussing wasps versus bees. As part of the conversation, one of the contributors mentioned that wasps like sweet things early in the season when they are feeding their young but, later in the year, they are only feeding themselves and they want protein (or the other way around if I have remembered incorrectly). I didn’t know anything about this before but then, shortly afterwards, we were sitting out on the deck after dinner and a wasp landed on a plate and then flew off with a chunk of chicken. This chunk was almost as big as it was.
A week later, we were back out on the deck and, with dinner done, a wasp came back to check out the leftovers. This time I was ready with my phone. Sure enough, it landed on my plate, checked out a piece of corn and then homed in on some chicken. A few bites later, it had extracted its meal and got airborne and away. I had my video proof, so I was happy. It came back for a second piece a little while later, so I guess it was storing food for later.
The flowers in our back yard are very popular with butterflies and, with nice evening light in the garden, I was bound to drag out the macro lens. However, when I tried getting some shots, the camera was having a really hard time focusing. I often ended up using the manual focus ring to get something close when the camera kept focusing on the background. I had struggled with a couple of other subjects previously and I was beginning to get really annoyed. This was not a cheap lens, and the camera certainly isn’t cheap but why wouldn’t it focus on a butterfly? I was using animal mode so thought it would cope.
I ended up trying different focus area modes. Narrowing it down to the small focus spot and moving that around by hand rather than using the subject detection modes was my next effort. I seemed to have some better luck, but it still was unreliable and was giving me a red box around the focus area. Why wouldn’t it work. I took a look in the menus to see if there was something in there which was going to be an issue but nothing there either. I was beginning to be fearful I had a dud. Then I noticed something. The focus limit switch had moved from the full range to having a minimum focus distance of 0.5m. That would certainly be an issue. Put it back to where it should have been and suddenly the focus was working perfectly. What a dope. Not sure when I had knocked that switch but it might have been a while back. Doh!
The plants in our backyard attract a lot of insects and we get plenty of bees hanging out on sunny days. One of our hanging baskets gets a reasonable amount of attention but not a lot. However, one bee showed up on a Sunday afternoon and got our attention. First, it stayed on the basket for ages climbing over the same flowers repeatedly unlike the usual bee behavior or constantly moving from flower to flower. The other reason for our attention was the size of the thing. It was huge compared to our average bees. I wonder if it got so large by removing every morsel of nutrient from each flower!
I have recently come across a couple of caterpillars during my wanderings. One of them was in the parking lot at work while another was out on a trail. Caterpillars are strange creatures because they only have a few “legs” which are bunch up together with one other at the other end of the body. No doubt, a specialist would be cringing right now at the inadequacy of my description. The result is that the motion of the body is quite complex. Video is the best way to demonstrate this so I used the phone to get some footage including when the sun angle really helped to emphasize the complexity of the movement.
While I was down at Juanita Bay one weekend, a killdeer was hanging out on a muddy flat near me. It was busy extracting worms from the mud to snack on. The worms were not totally onboard with this plan and they were doing their best to stay in the mud. Some times the killdeer won the struggle and sometimes the worm did!
A bit of a Google search on the distinguishing characteristics of butterflies versus moths helped me out a bit but I don’t think it was quite as clear cut as I was hoping. We have a fluttering insect that seems to like our lavender plants a lot. I spent a little time one evening trying to get some shots of them at work. They don’t stay on any one section for long so a little patience and luck is in order. I didn’t know whether they were moths or butterflies. I think that they might be butterflies but, if they aren’t please don’t be too harsh in the comments.
Nancy has been busy planting in our back yard at home and one of the plants she has gone with is a lavender plant. Some of the plants take a while to get established and even longer to attract the wildlife but the lavender seems to be an instant hit. It has had a steady stream of bees visiting it as well as other creatures. Bees are the focus today.
I spent a little time lying on the ground by the plant with the macro lens fitted. This is not necessarily an ideal choice as my macro is not a high end lens and it has pretty slow focusing motors. The camera tries to drive it but often it can’t keep up. However, stick with it and you can get some shots that work out. One of the things I had not anticipated was the proboscis that the bees have. Maybe they tuck it away when not on plants but, as they move between parts of the plant, it stays out and it is rather an intimidating looking item!
When I lived in the UK, I don’t remember seeing dragonflies at all. They may well have been there but I didn’t notice them. Moving to the US, there were dragonflies all of the place and I was immediately fascinated by them. Of course, over time, I got used to them being everywhere so stopped paying attention. However, when I have visitors from the UK, they are taken with them in the same way I originally was.
When mum was here, we went down to Juanita Bay to have a look around. It was a lot hotter than it had been on any of my previous visits and it was also popular with bugs. I got bitten a few times which has never happened there before. I guess the bugs meant the dragonflies were happy and we saw plenty of them. Here are a few shots I got of them when they landed. I have yet to get anything useful of them while flying. They are quite tricky to track!
Just around the corner from our street is a wilder section of the road which currently has a lot of Foxgloves in bloom. I wandered around with camera in hand to take some photos. The bees were busy doing there thing but much patience was required because, whichever flower I decided to focus on, the bees concluded another one was what they wanted. I spent a lot of time only for them to choose the flowers either side of mine!
The bees were not only interested in the foxgloves. One particularly large looking bee was really going to town on another flower and I wondered whether he had had so much that he might not be able to get airborne again. I guess rolling off the edge of the flower gained him so airspeed – enough to stagger back into the air!
The Puget Sound area is currently abloom. Everywhere you look there are flowers. It is quite beautiful. We haven’t seen too many hummingbirds on our feeder recently and it’s not hard to see why when they have so many places to feed right now. We have some blooms in our front yard too and this means the bees are visiting. I decided to try and use the macro lens to get some shots of them. My lens is a Tokina unit. I bought it for the negative scanning process for which it worked well. However, the focusing drive is not fantastic and it hunts a bit when I use it for things other than manual mode. However, it is still worth a shot. Here are a couple of bee shots from the yard. I can’t go anywhere so I may as well shoot at home!