Photos of the Week – July 31 2022

Most of North America’s bee and wasp species are solitary, as opposed to colonial. That means that instead of being part of a cooperative group of workers supporting a queen, single female bees and wasps act on their own. Without support from others, each individual female (in most cases) has to create a nest, lay eggs, gather food to put with those eggs, and defend her nest. It’s a lot.

Male solitary bees and wasps, on the other hand, have a pretty cushy life by comparison. Their sole job is to hang out near flowers and mate with females as they come to gather nectar (wasps and bees) or pollen (bees). The downside of that lifestyle, however, is that males don’t have a nest to retire to each evening. Instead, they have to just find a roosting place and spend all night exposed to the weather and potential predation.

Long-horned bee (Melissodes) at sunrise. Lincoln Creek Prairie, Aurora, Nebraska. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/14, 1/200 sec.
Long-horned bee on fourpoint evening primrose (Oenothera rhombipetala) at the Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 1600, f/18, 1/160 sec.

Because I like to go out early in the morning and look for insects (and other things) I often come across male bees and wasps on their overnight roosts. Often, they’re cool and covered in dew, which makes them pretty easy targets for my photography. I assume that makes them easy targets for predators and other threats too.

Eight-spotted scoliid wasps (Colpa octomaculata). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/100 sec.
Eight-spotted scoliid wasp (Colpa octomaculata). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/100 sec.
Eight-spotted scoliid wasp (Colpa octomaculata). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens with Raynox 250 attachment. ISO 320, f/16, 1/100 sec.
Long-horned bees (Melissodes). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/13, 1/400 sec.
Long-horned bees (Melissodes). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/18, 1/200 sec.
Long-horned bee (Melissodes?). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/18, 1/125 sec.

This has been a particularly good summer for encountering bees and wasps in the morning, so I thought I’d share some of the photos I’ve gotten over the last couple months. The ones I see are often on or near flowers or seed heads, or in other places fairly high up in the vegetation. That seems like it would make them more prone to being found by birds or other predators, but it also means the sun will reach them early in the morning and warm them up. That’s a tricky tradeoff.

Leaf-cutter bee (Megachile) at the Niobrara Valley Preserve. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/18, 1/100 sec.
Dew-covered bee on hoary vervain (Verbena stricta). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/14, 1/80 sec.
Sand wasps (Bicyrtes sp). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/11, 1/160 sec.
Sand wasps (Bicyrtes sp). Platte River Prairies.Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/18, 1/125 sec.
Five-banded thynnid wasp (Myzinum quinquecinctum). Lincoln Creek Prairie, Aurora, Nebraska. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/11, 1/200 sec.

If you come across any male bees or wasps while you’re out on an early morning walk, it’s a great opportunity to get a close look at these beautiful creatures. As you look at them, though, maybe wish them luck. After all, if you’ve found them and gotten close enough to admire them, others may do the same, and might have hungrier intentions…

Cellophane bees (Colletes sp). Helzer Family Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/14, 1/80 sec.
Cellophane bee (Colletes sp). Helzer Family Prairie.Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/60 sec.

(Thanks to the fantastic experts at bugguide.net for their helpful identifications of some of these bees and wasps. If any of them are misidentified, it those are the ones I tried on my own…)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

10 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – July 31 2022

  1. The green eyes of those Long-horned bees are marvelous. If I had to name just one bee-feature as a favorite, those might be it. And isn’t it fun to find sleeping creatures in the morning? Their vulnerability is touching. My personal fav is this little bee that checked into what I dubbed the Winecup Hotel.

  2. Your photos are beautiful!
    I didn’t know anything about bugguide.net, but since we have so many bees in the yard on things like bee Balm, cone flowers and other native flowers, we’ll be sure to look it up and try to start using it to identify bees.
    Thank you!

  3. I want to let you know how much I enjoy these photos! I enjoy taking close-up pictures of insects and appreciate that you include the camera settings with your pictures.

    Kathy (Lalley) Dewell

  4. Cellophane bee (Colletes sp) our common name here in the panhandle is sweat bee they are attracted to moisture.

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