Messing about with blue banded bees

Messing about with blue banded bees

Blue banded bees

While staying with friends in Armidale in the highlands of northern New South Wales in Australia I was out looking for tiger snakes and instead stumbled onto a bunch of bees buzzing around a garden plant.

These are blue banded bees (Amegilla cingulata) and they are native to Australia and southeast Asia. Unlike the honeybees we are more familiar with, these are solitary burrowing bees that dig tunnels into dirt banks. Males are more brightly coloured than the slightly larger females. By night or whenever they are inactive, males spend their time clinging to plant stems with their jaws.

The bee has its tongue extended ready to feed. Notice the mantis in the picture.

Although they are very passive towards humans, I became painfully aware of the sting male blue banded bees possess while out one night a year or two earlier. I brushed against some grass and one fell into my shoe. Unlike a honeybee the sting did not stay, it seemed to be retractable like that of a wasp.

Blue banded bees may be non aggressive to people, but they are very nasty to one another; males will attack other males as they are feeding, often biting chunks out of each others’ wings and chase each other about.

Photographing blue banded bees

Like the pictures? My gift to you is this HD sized (1920×1080) desktop background image of a bee coming in to feed. Click here to open. Esc will close it. See the Free Stuff page for T’s and C’s.

To photograph the blue banded bees is not so easy. They are fast and dart about erratically. The best way is to find a suitable flowering plant (usually blue) and get a good camera, preferably a fast SLR. A macro lens is vital, as is strong sunlight. I used the following settings: [Tv, ISO 800, 1/2000, high speed burst mode] on a Canon EOS 60D with a EF-S 60mm f2.8 USM. Wait until a one  settles on a flower and move in close, but do so slowly as they frighten easily. Quickly focus on the bee and compose the shot, firing a rapid burst of pictures just before it takes off. The bee will usually start feeding on the bottom of the flower spike, corkscrewing its way up from flower to flower. When it reaches the top it will move to the next. You must have fast reflexes and the ability to focus quickly to be successful.

The setup used for these pictures was the Canon EOS 60D coupled with the Canon EF-S 60mm f2.8 USM lens.
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