Posts Tagged 'bees'

Dead Wood?

post2The fence posts in Brooklyn Bridge Park are made from Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), a durable, naturally rot-resistant wood. Of course, like anything in a natural environment, even one as heavily managed as this, it will end up having more than a single, intended purpose.post3The top, for instance, is a great place for birds to perch, chew the fat (worm, berry) and, obviously, poop.post4The wood itself is home. I saw an unidentified insect — something Diptera or Hymenoptera — crawl into the hole on the left of this knot. I waited a while, but nothing emerged, so the mystery about what is nesting here remains.post5This fungus is right at home here, indeed, inseparable.post1And even busy bees need to rest every once and a while… this Megachilidae leaf-cutter is pausing on her way back to her nest with one of the ovals of fresh leaf she has chewed out. She’ll use this as lining in her nest. I’ve seen these types of bees before (you can’t see it here, but they collect pollen under their abdomen); I’ve seen their cut-outs on leaf margins; but this was the first time I’ve seen one of the bees with a piece of leaf, work in hand(s), as it were.


Clethra alnifolia

Slow Morning

Bombus impatiensBy which I mean a chilly morning, according to bumble bee standards. Burly little things, they warm themselves up by muscular action on chilly spring mornings, getting the jump on other pollinators who are smaller and more solar-powered. This looks like a Bombus impatiens, which, for all I know, is how you look on Monday mornings, too.

Early Fall

Yesterday morning around 10, it was under 60F and cloudy. The bumblebees were not quite warmed up. Some didn’t move at all, others were quite sluggish. Burly little things, with lots of muscle, which is one of the reasons they are one of the first flying bugs in the spring. They can warm themselves up by disjointing their wings and shaking themselves warm. They were flying by noon, and working the goldenrod. It was a late start to a fall day. I led some enthusiastic BBP volunteers — very enthusiastic, they were volunteering to weed afterwards — around Pier 1, looking for animals. A mouse was unexpected. Northern Flickers kept zooming around; they are passing through now in a crowd, flashing their yellow underwings in undulating flights. The milkweed beetles were in their scrums. A good bit of warbler activity, but mostly after the walk; everybody needed to warm up, it seems.


Brooklyn Bridge Park’s horticulturalist Rebecca McMackin told me recently that she consciously works to create habitat. The proof is in the animals: Spot-winged glider (Pantala hymenaea), a new species for me.
A reader of this blog, in private conversation, noted how the carrion beetle thing yesterday was a little queasy, but I personally find these lady bug larva the most daunting of insect forms. Fast, furious devourers; clearly the model for the thing they put in Pavel Chekov’s ear. Digger wasp (Scolia dubia), another of the blue/black-winged wasps. (I was looking at some crows up close recently and they have a similar blue-purple iridescence.) Very distinctive yellow spots and red hairs on abdomen. About an inch long. Deserves another view:Bumblebee, butt-up in bindweed. (Bindweed is generally freelance habitat, and this was winding up some fencing unbidden by the hard-working staff.)

BBP is now just over two years old. All my BBP posts are here in chronological order.

Short-horned Long-horn

Genus Melissodes, a long-horned bee. The females don’t have the really long horns (actually they are antennae). Note the hairy legs thick with pollen.A solitary bee. There are more than a dozen species in New York. Sunflowers are one of their main food sources.


Last weekend, I visited the Flatbush Gardener’s garden. The highlight was the mountain mint, alive with pollinators. I mean, jumping with pollinators: several species of bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies going at it. Here are a couple of the highlights:
Great Golden Digger Wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus.One of the grass-carrying wasps of genus Isodontia.
Cuckoo bee, Triepeolus lunatus.

Notice the purple markings on the tiny flowers of this mint. I imagine those looks spectacular to those creatures, like these, can can see into the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum.

Thanks to my host Chris for the identifications on these. Check out his Flickr for more shots of the wide, wonderful world of pollinators he’s found in his portion of backyard Brooklyn. (In my next couple of posts, I’ll continue on this hymenoptera kick.)


I took a walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park yesterday afternoon. It was very windy, which made photographing flying insects quite a challenge. I saw my first Monarch butterflies of the year, as well as an American Lady. Black Saddlebags dragonfly. Great Northern Bumblebee (amongst a host of small, medium, and large bumblebees I am otherwise unable to figure out). And these, identified with some help from, with the cavet that a lot of these things are hard to pin down unless they’re pinned down, and at Backyard and Beyond we don’t do that: Genus Megachile, a leaf-cutting bee.
The metallic “sweat bees” of the family Halictidae often only have green heads and thoraxes, like the one below, but the one above was green from top to bottom. Quite a looker.They are called “sweat bees” called because they like human sweat. I’ve never experienced one interested in my sweat.Above and below, sand wasps of the Bembicini tribe. These make shallow nests in sand, and provision their larvae with flies of various kinds. Like many of the wasps that kill for their young, they themselves eat nectar and pollen as adults.
Yes, that’s a greenish tinge to the eyes.
This one was rubbing its limbs busily against the top of this wooden post. Only after looking at the photo did I notice that there are tiny little tags attached to the legs. These are pollinia, pairs of waxy pollen bundles attached by a fiendishly sticky thread, produced by milkweed flowers. Swamp milkweed in this case. Read more about the fascinating milkweeds here. The threads can attach to the mouthparts of some bees.

I ran into someone photographing a Red Admiral. It was my fellow nature blogger Julie, of Urban Wildlife Guide. We both admired all the native plantings and the pollinators they attracted and saluted the hard-working gardening team at the park.

All praise to the pollinators!

It’s National Pollinator Week. While honeybees get most of the media attention, there are some 250 different species of bees found in New York City. Recently, a new species of sweat bee was named after being discovered in Prospect Park.

Here’s yet another type of local bee. This is a genus Megachile leaf-cutter bee, so named because most of the species in this genus cut leaves or petals with their “big lips” (megachile) or jaws, and use the pieces of plant to line their nests. Note the yellow abdomen, which is distinctive for this genus: that’s actually pollen. She has special hairs, called scopa, on the bottom of her abdomen that she uses to carry the stuff. Most other bees carry pollen in bunches around their legs. The Megachile bees are solitary species.

Island Bugs

Ah, summer, season of buzzing and flying and biting! The insects are out in force. OK, there’s really not that much biting, per se. Seen last week on Nantucket: One of the green metallic bees, genus Agapostemon, also known as sweat bees, on chicory flower. Note the big bundles of pollen around the legs.
A small Syrphid fly on one of the wild roses.
Freezing a beetle for a minute or two makes it easier to photograph, but then you get the dead beetle look. (And since only Paul and Ringo are still around…) The bug, one of the long-horned beetles, specifically Strangalia luteicornis, revived.Genus Photinis firefly.The battering of June bugs, genus Phyllophaga, against window screens was a constant of my island youth. They still come towards the lights, the poor bastards. And sometimes they get in. This one promptly fell to the floor on its back, lurched around, and then upwards into the air and was almost immediately caught in spider silk underneath a table. Although the spider was much smaller, it eventually captured what must have been food for a week. The flash here captures the beetle’s elytra, the shell-like coverings of the wings, as well as the wonderfully feathered antennae.

(All my Nantucket posts can be found here.)


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