Less Noise, More Green: Pollinators Aplenty

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pollinators Aplenty

Sweat Bee, bees, pollinators, urban farming
Sweat Bee. Green bees - who knew?

One of the joys of this summer has been watching the insect activity around my flowering plants. As you know, this is my first year as a beekeeper and I have been mindful of my little friends as I chose plants for my gardens. What has been unexpected is the variety of insects I see every day on the flowers. Over the course of a couple of days I took photos of as many different pollinators as I could. Identification of some of these insects is tricky, so if you know what they are, please let me know!

Honey Bee, bees, pollinators, urban farming
Italian Honey Bee?
According to the Pollinator Partnership, ninety percent of flowering plants rely on animal pollinators for fertilization and 200,000 species help in pollination. The overwhelming majority of pollinators are insects including beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, moths and flies. Only bees collect the pollen and nectar. Most pollinators are moving from flower to flower drinking nectar or eating the pollen.


Wasps have four wings like a bee and come in a variety of sizes, ranging from very small to very large. Can anyone help me identify any of the following wasps?

Wasp, pollinators, urban farming
Many wasps have bee-like markings.
Wasp, pollinators, urban farming

Wasp, pollinators, urban farming

Wasp, pollinators, urban farming

Wasp, pollinators, urban farming


Pollinating fly, pollinators, urban farming
Syrphid, Hover or Flower Flies look like bees or wasps, many having yellow and black stripes, but they only have one pair of wings and tend to hover rather than fly from flower to flower. I watched as one Flower Fly hovered and attacked the honey bees, pushing them off the flowers!

Pollinating fly, pollinators, urban farming

Butterflies and Beetles

Lady bug, pollinators, urban farming
Lady birds (bugs) are everywhere in my garden this year - red, yellow, even green!

Pollinating butterfly, pollinators, urban farming
Anyone know what this is? Note the proboscis.


Most bees are solitary in nature, living alone in trees or underground. This is true for the majority of native bees. One way to tell if a bee is a solitary variety is to look at their legs. Solitary females do not have collection baskets, like Honey bees, instead they have feathery hind legs with which to catch the pollen.

Native bee on rudbeckia, pollinators, urban farming
This solitary bee is tiny. Can anyone identify?

Carpenter Bee, pollinators, urban farming
Enormous solitary Carpenter bee. This bee's buzz was so loud it drowned everything else out.

Valley Carpenter Bee, pollinators, urban farming
I think this is a solitary Valley Carpenter Bee. All black except for a white stripe on the lower back.

Valley Carpenter Bee, pollinators, urban farming
This is a different Valley Carpenter Bee. Note the different color pollen.
Sweat bees, bumblebees and honeybees are social and live in colonies consisting of a queen, female worker and male drone bees.

Bumble Bee, pollinators, urban farming
Bumble Bee

Bumble Bee on oregano, pollinators, urban farming
These are three different Bumble bees working on stripping the pollen from my oregano.

Bumble Bee on oregano, pollinators, urban farming
Note the beautiful pink pollen sacks!

Bumble Bee on oregano, pollinators, urban farming
Bees are so cool!

The most common kind of Honey bee are the European Italian and Russian bees (Apis. mellifera). I have been trying to learn how to tell the two apart but am not having much luck. It seems there are variations of color within both species, with the Italian bee being a lighter yellow. Doe any one have any pointers?

Honey bee, pollinators, urban farming
Here are some variations of Honey bee markings.

Honey Bee, pollinators, urban farming

Honey Bee pollinators, urban farming
Italian Honey bee?

Honey Bee, pollinators, urban farming
Hard at work.

Not a bad variety of pollinators for one small garden! I love watching the pollinators at work. The bees especially are fascinating. Early in the morning they are frantic, moving at lightening speed between flowers, their pollen sacks bulging. It is hard to take good photos because they just don't stay still.

Bumble Bee on nasturtium, pollinators, urban farming
Bumble Bee butt.
They stay longer on the squash and nasturtium flowers, going deep within so all you can see are their little bee butts wiggling.

Around four o'clock is the time for photos. By four, they are exhausted. Moving much more slowly from flower to flower, if I'm lucky I'll find a few bees resting in the sun. Take it easy little bee, the flowers will still be here tomorrow.

Take a moment and watch the pollinators in your garden.



  1. Absolutely beautiful photos! I think the photo you are asking about is some kind of skipper (by the shape of the butterfly). This website is a great resource for identifying butterflies and moths: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/

    1. Thanks for the link - I think you are right about the butterfly. I couldn't get a shot with the wings open, unfortunately.

  2. These photos are just great! I too like to what the bees do their jobs in the garden. Who knew so much went on to feed us?

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