"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Bees on Blooms!

From “The Mind of a Shopper in the Flower Supermarket” in The Mind of a Bee by Lars Chittka:

“While foraging, the bee also has to overcome the frustration and the starvation risk of finding dozens of empty flowers in a row that a competitor has recently emptied, and she must decide when to cut her losses and explore for an alternative food source….

“As she keeps visiting several thousands of flowers a day, rules begin to emerge; for example, are bilaterally symmetrical flower species (such as snapdragons) more rewarding than radially symmetrical ones (such as daisies), irrespective of species and color? Learning rules is not typically regarded as within the reach of an insect mind, but… the pressures of operating in the flower supermarket have given rise to such intelligent operations in the bee. What’s more, while figuring out all these contingencies, she also has to dodge attacks from predators, and remember and avoid flower patches where predation risk is especially high. She has to keep track of the location of her home no matter how convoluted her flight path, and in the face of wind gusts that might displace her far from her established route.”

From “The Gladness of Nature” in Poems by William Cullen Bryant:

There are notes of joy from the hang-bird and wren,
    And the gossip of swallows through all the sky;
The ground-squirrel gayly chirps by his den,
    And the wilding bee hums merrily by.


The flowers featured in this post are members of the Asteraceae family, often referenced by Aster as a genus — and the family and genus includes asters, coneflower, chrysanthemums, and daisies, among others. I say it like that because I couldn’t quite identify a specific flower name for all of these, though my goto-plant-identifying-source (Pl@ntNet.identify) thought they were each most likely a variety of Persian daisy. This may or may not be true, but you can’t go wrong by calling them asters, and you probably won’t be wrong if you call them daisies.

In late October through mid-November, aster varieties bloom profusely around my neighborhood, wildly flowering streetside and at places like Oakland Cemetery’s gardens or the Atlanta Botanical Garden, showing off some of the last summer color before the leaves turn toward fall. At Oakland, there are large plots with mixed plantings, some in spaces twenty to thirty feet long and a half-dozen feet wide, filled with bees and wasps engaging in late season pollen-gathering. Many buzz off when I stomp up with the camera; but on a recent trip enough of them hung around that I was able to get some decent shots as they went about their business.

I’ll say it’s momentarily intimidating to realize you’re standing at the edge of a flowerbed and nearly surrounded by bees. And I do mean LOTS of bees. But they paid little attention unless I got too close, bopping from petal to petal and all but ignoring me — except for a single little wasp that flew in my left ear and drilled its way out my right one…

… which of course only happened in my imagination. My nervousness gave way pretty quickly, though, and I settled into this ethereal feeling that seems very specific to autumn: the quiet pleasure of cool temperatures, a mix of sunlight and clouds, light breezes, leaves tumbling along the ground, and — on this day — the zippy sounds of bumble- and wasp-wing mixing with it all.

The first gallery below shows a bumblebee on a beautifully colored flower, one that appears nearly brown in full sunlight but reveals these shades of red, orange, and magenta in the shade. This particular bee was hard for the camera to focus on: in addition to the bee’s constant motion, the camera seemed to get confused by its puffy fur coat — but at least I got a few images that were pretty sharp and in the third photo, you can (just barely!) see the bee’s eyes.

The second gallery shows a single wasp coming in for a landing. I have no idea how that worked out so well — I think I focused on the flower and pressed the shutter button as fast as I could. Sometimes you’re just giddy — aren’t you? — about your (photographic) luck!

If you take a close look at some of the subsequent photos — especially the last five — you can see clumps of yellow-orange pollen gathered around the bee’s knees. I guess that’s proof that they weren’t just flying around because they could (though that’s what I would do): they were busy, and hard at work!

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Autumn Mix: Goldenrod, Coneflower, and Anemone (2 of 2)

From “Solidago (Asteraceae)” in Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

“There are around 150 species of goldenrods, nearly all North American, with a few in South America down to the Southern Cone, and a handful in Eurasia….

“Goldenrods were an essential part of the early-20th-century herbaceous border; a number of hybrids were raised and widely disseminated. By the end of the century, however, the plants had a bad reputation, in Britain at any rate; anything that gets to be seen on railway embankments or badly maintained pony paddocks will soon lose its popularity for the garden. In the United States interest in growing goldenrods was at a peak in the 1920s, as part of a fashion for growing native plants, and during the 1970s interest in them grew again, as part of the revival of interest in natives and habitat restoration….

“In nature they are plants of woodland edge, marshland, and transitional grassland habitats…. All are noted as exceptionally good nectar sources for honeybees and butterflies….”


This is the second of two posts featuring goldenrod and coneflower blooms, shot at higher magnification than those in the previous post (see Autumn Mix: Goldenrod, Coneflower, and Anemone (1 of 2)), along with some new photos of anemone.

Thanks for taking a look!

Autumn Mix: Goldenrod, Coneflower, and Anemone (1 of 2)

From Seeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and Fruit by Teri Dunn Chace, with photographs by Robert Llewellyn:

“Autumn is the season of seeds, from acorns to grape seeds to windblown fluff from milkweed, goldenrod, and fireweed. If no one eats a seed, does it automatically grow into a new plant next spring? What is inside a seed? How does it all work? Does it all work, or is there a lot of wastefulness? These are good questions.”

From “A Gardener’s Thanksgiving” in One Man’s Garden by Henry Mitchell:

“Gardeners, as a caste, are usually grateful for blessings. Indeed, it is wonderful how little it takes to make a gardener happy. A rooted sprig of some uncommonly pretty goldenrod will do….”


I often overlook goldenrod when I’m out in the neighborhood plant-hunting, but it got my attention recently. Some of goldenrod’s best blooming takes place in late September through mid-October here in the southeast, and a couple of weeks ago I happened on the mix of goldenrod and coneflower (or black-eyed Susan) featured in the first galleries below. Because we’d had some colder nights, much of the growth behind the goldenrod was starting to turn dark aqua-green, so perhaps that gave the goldenrod an extra punch to my eye, and made the yellow and gold in it and the coneflower look especially fine in the foreground.

Anemone — a tiny flower with perfectly-shaped spherical unopened buds — is always a delight to come across, and photographs nicely close up. The purple/violet color — contrasting with the orange and light green center of the flower — was especially vibrant on these late-bloomers; and even though the petals are a bit ragged around the edges, they still, in my opinion, look pretty good!

Thanks for taking a look!

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