Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bee Balm Bumbles

I love bee balm blooms, which remind me of wild bergamot (the oil of which gives the fragrant character to Earl Grey tea). Even more, I love the wasps, beetles and buzzing creatures they attract. Especially these we call bumble bees. In the second shot I caught one in flight (lower right).

Actually true bumble bees are smaller and have more fur than these. These are more likely to be digger bees (I once saw a stream bank full of hundreds of holes and dozens of digger bees coming and going, one to each hole), or some other group of apidae. But we just call them all bumble bees - fat black and yellow solitaries, not honey bees, not wasps.

I have tried in vain to identify the species we have in our yard each summer - the field guides in common circulation aren't detailed enough, and it's almost impossible to identify these insects without killing them, which we will not do. Some are carpenter bees, which make perfectly round bores into fence posts, wood trim on houses, wood furniture, etc. to lay their eggs. If you see a big, black tailed bee hovering around the wooden trim of your house or deck, right up next to the wood, it is one of these. And I believe they can measure the depth or quality of the wood sonically by hovering... Nature is incredible, and the insect world includes creatures far weirder than aliens in science fiction.

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