Project 52 No 44 The cycle of life (and explosive sex)

16 08 2010

Most nature photographs are of pretty creatures, green plants or amazing scenery. We like to associate beauty with nature.  However, there is another side to nature and conservation: living things die. It is an integral part of our planet’s cycles.

This photograph is of a honey bee drone  Apis mellifera which we  saw on the sidewalk yesterday.  The lighting was very harsh and flat, typical of a hot humid August mid-day.  I couldn’t bring out the details of the bee until I experimented with the built-in flash.

I liked this photograph as its curled shape plus the dramatic light and shadow brought out the emotion and sadness we normally associate with death of bigger warm-blooded creatures.

The story becomes even more interesting… I sent a couple of bee photographs to a colleague, Dr. Mark Winston, who is an apiologist.   This is what he told me: “The first one is way more interesting, and unusual, than you think! It is a honey bee, but not a female. It’s a drone bee, and the thing at the end of the abdomen is not a sting, but what remains of the everted endophallus after the drone has mated in the air with a queen at a congregation area where drones wait for a queen to fly through. His genitalia explode and he flips back, paralyzed, and drops to the ground dead after mating. It’s quite unusual to actually find the dead drone. You might go back to that site in the afternoon and look up, as these sites persist and you may see drones up above flying back and forth waiting (dare I suggest: hoping!) for a queen.”

Dead bee on a sidewalk

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2 responses

16 08 2010
photographyfree4all

Interesting to say the least! Great post.

16 08 2010
ecogirlcosmoboy

Thanks! Just checked out your photoblog — nice, especially of the one-pig-tailed girl!

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