Garden Buzz: Bee or Not A Bee?

Okay folks, this almost-weekly post is a quiz, in honour of the fact that for the first time this summer I saw some honeybees in my garden! (I’m so relieved — the first cucumbers aborted for lack of sufficient pollination.) But don’t worry, you get helpful hints.

The first insect up is the familiar honeybee. Of course, you may not be all that familiar with what honeybees look like close up, because you’re (A) unduly terrified of them and/or (B) haven’t seen many lately due to losses from mites and Colony Collapse Disorder. So here’s a refresher. Kindly note that in addition to being gold and black and flying around going “buzzz”, a real honeybee is (1) furry (insect hairs are called setae); (2) has two pairs of wings; (3) has plain antennae, not feathery ones or tiny ones that are nothing more than bristles; (4) has a little tongue, not a long proboscis like a butterfly.

Aren’t they just so cute?

Other kinds of bees and wasps may or may not be furry or gold and black, but their bodies are visibly divided into the head, thorax and abdominal regions (you know, “wasp-waisted”). Aside from the coloration or varying amounts of fluffiness, they still look like other bees and wasps, not like beetles, flies, moths or other insects.

This shiny green motorcycle-with-wings is a sweat bee (Hymenoptera: Halictidae Augochlora sp.)

This large shiny almost blue critter is the great black wasp (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae Sphex pennsylvanicus). Both of these are nectaring on the oregano flowers. I end up having far more oregano in my landscaping than I’ll ever use in the kitchen, just because the insects love it so.

Smashingly gorgeous, aren’t they?!

Ready for the quiz? Okay, let’s go to my new insect photo page


  1. 25 October 2008 at 20:26

    […] P.S. See Bug Girl’s blog for a series of great posts about distinguishing between flies and bees, or my own series on the subject, “Garden Buzz: Bee or Not a Bee?” […]

  2. Philip said,

    7 July 2007 at 9:30

    Again, you have posted an excellent selection of photos :-)

  3. Ryan said,

    7 July 2007 at 3:38

    Great Pictures! While I haven’t seen any honeybees just yet, I have seen a few other species of bees that are equally cool. My favorite is almost twice as a big as a bumble bee, but entirely shiney and black. So neat!

    I’m currently trying to raise money for bee research by selling tshirts. If you get a minute, I hope you’ll check it out!


  4. qw88nb88 said,

    7 July 2007 at 3:35

    Bug Girl,
    I’m using a D-SLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera with a zoom lens and for the insect shots I put on 12mm and/or 20mm extension tubes. (For cloud and some landscape photography I have a polarizing lens as well.) Naturally, I kept the zoom lens from my previous SLR, which of course necessitated sticking with Pentax. Not top-of-the-line, but not bad either.

    One thing I did make a point of doing this time was to select a body that took reasonable batteries! I can use either a pair of 3-volt batteries or four AA batteries. The last thing I wanted was to end up with another camera that required some bloody obscure battery only sold in camera shops and large drug stores!

    The Pentax came with some software to install on the computer, but I ignored it and just plugged the camera into my laptop and iPhoto dealt with it from there. I love being able to take lots of pictures (2GB) without worrying about “wasting” film, and getting that instant gratification by dumping them onto the computer for emails, blog posts, and dumping into my teaching PowerPoints. If I want prints, I just upload them to Shutterfly and an hour or so later stop by a shop to pick them up. Life is fine (-:

  5. bigwhitehat said,

    7 July 2007 at 1:36

    I love macro photography.

  6. Bug Girl said,

    7 July 2007 at 1:12

    ooh, more pretty pictures! I -definitely- need to get a new camera….

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