Jun 18 2014

Ah, Nature. So Lovely and Gentle: Dinnertime Edition

(Not to reveal the turn before it’s time, but if you’ve got any phobias regarding things with more than six legs and eyes, don’t go below the fold.)

Ah, late spring in the Pacific Northwest! So green and lovely. One thing nice about working in the burbs is that the sidewalks are lined with Nootka roses. You don’t even have to stop to smell ‘em – the heady scent fills the still evening air and swirls around in the eddies caused by your brisk stroll. And yes, you’re strolling briskly rather than ambling, because you’ve only got a fifteen minute break and you want to have a quick visit with the creek before you’re due back.

All right, have I set the scene? Now, imagine you’re bopping along, and you’ve had your look at the creek, and you even have a few minutes left to stop and smell a rose. Only there’s a bee dangling from one.

Image shows a crumpled Nootka rose with a bee dangling by one leg from it.

The bee on the rose.

Now, normally, these little buggers are buzzing around like – well, you know there’s a reason why “busy as a bee” is a cliché. So this is a prime opportunity, and so you unlimber the camera in the soft twilight. And you get to work documenting some bee anatomy.

Bee on rose, extreme close-up.

Bee on rose, extreme close-up.

Poor little sod. You can tell it was busy collecting pollen not long before – see it on the legs, and wings? But you’ve seen those bits of a bee before. It’s harder to get their belly. Heh heh, bee bellies. Let’s see if we can see it.

Image shows my fingers grasping the rose petals, trying to turn the bee a bit.

Trying to turn the bee.

And you’re rather intent on turning your bee without jarring it, so you don’t notice at first exactly why the bee is dangling from the rose in the first place. If only you’d had the advantage of a cropped image and hindsight…

Crop of the previous image. Note the tell-tale strands clutching that pathetic little leg, and the busy white body at top.

Crop of the previous image. Note the tell-tale strands clutching that pathetic little leg, and the busy white body at top.

And just as you’re about to get your best shot ever of a bee-belly, along comes the spider that caught it to see what you’re up to with its dinner.

Image shows a wee white spider with an orange streak on its body coming down from the top of the rose to see what's up with the bee.

Along came the spider…

People talk a lot about being more in tune with nature, being more natural, emulating nature, that sorta thing. And for a long time now, I’ve been thinking, but we’re already all that. I mean, seriously. If someone was rummaging around in your pantry, molesting your dinner, you’d come down to see what was going on, right?

Crop of the previous image, so you can see that magnificent little thing up close. Isn't it precious?

Crop of the previous image, so you can see that magnificent little thing up close. Isn’t it precious?

And you’d check on the food, yeah?

The spider gives its bee a close inspection.

The spider gives its bee a close inspection.

And then, having ascertained that all is well, you’d wander back upstairs to continue whetting your appetite, amirite?

So. Lovely. That’s nature, then, critters paralyzing critters and saving them for later munching, beauty turned to sinister (from the bee’s perspective) purpose. And that’s us. We do this, too, you know: prey on other critters, use beautiful things to help satisfy our more pragmatic needs. The unnatural thing about us, I think, is that we don’t realize we’re emulating nature all the time, whether we’re doing beautiful, gentle things or really gross and brutal things.

So I swear to you, the next time someone tells me I should take a cue from the natural world or emulate nature or some such fluffy nonsense, Ima ask them if that includes eating something several times my own size. Raw.

I’m not very nice sometimes.

As for the bee belly, don’t worry. We got it.

Image shows the bee on its back on the rose.  It's not as exciting as you might expect...

A little bee belleh for my loyal readers. Kinda looks like it’s about to recite Shakespeare, dunnit?



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  1. 1

    That is a SPECTACULAR spider. If you like spiders. Even better than PZ’s face-butt spider. I expect someone will be along to identify it soon.

  2. 2
    Raucous Indignation

    Could someone please identify the species of the spider? I live in the Northeast; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it out here.

  3. 3

    I can’t ID it to species, but it’s definitely a crab spider. And a spectacular one at that!

    1. 3.1

      Crab spider indeed! My ignorance of spider identification is encyclopedic, however. There’s always BugGuide.net. They do spiders as well as insects.

  4. 4

    Beautiful photos! Spiders aren’t quite my line, but I spend a lot of time looking at bees, and you meet a lot of crab spiders that way. She looks like Misumena to me, and at a guess, Misumena vatia.

    That’s an interesting bee, by the way… she looks like Bombus bifarius, which is not that common on this side of the mountains.

  5. 5

    Here is at least a similar one:

    I found a more similar one on Google images that linked to a blog in Swedish on which I didn’t find the image.

    Oh, here are some more:

    Or you can help yourself.

  6. 6

    OK, here you go:

  7. 7

    And better yet:
    Note that they can change their color between white and yellow, to match the flowers in which they are hunting. How cool is that?

    Not as cool as having Dana back!

  8. 8

    Or this:
    Eight legged chameleon

    (disclaimer: I’m the author, so the ID is no more reliable than my previous comment — actually a bit less so, since Dana’s photo provided a better angle on the eyes. It has another cool photo of a crab spider, though, so I’m going with it.)

  9. 9
    Kevin Kehres

    Wonderful. Now for the million dollar question.

    What camera did you use? Lens/macro setting?

    I love doing close-up work like this in my nature photography. Inquiring minds want to know — how can I improve?

    (There’s a story somewhere about the difference between artists and art critics at a gallery opening. Art critics will hang around discussing the artist’s intent or layers of meaning in each piece. Artists will hang around discussing the best paint remover to clean the brushes.)

  10. 10

    @8: Link not working.

  11. 11

    “So I swear to you, the next time someone tells me I should take a cue from the natural world or emulate nature or some such fluffy nonsense, Ima ask them if that includes eating something several times my own size. Raw.”

    Yes. Yes this. I fully intend to steal this from you unless you object! :D

  12. 12
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    If you dig bees, vines, flowers, and leaves–
    Artist creates translucent glass paperweights inspired by nature:

    When Stankard suddenly directed a decade of industrial glassworking techniques into the interpretation of flowers, bees, vines, and leaves encased in glass, it wasn’t long before an art dealer discovered his work and he began to create art full-time. His pieces now appear in over 60 museums around the world including the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Louvre.

  13. 13

    Huh. Trying again:

    Eight legged chameleon

    1. 13.1

      Thank you! Very cool. Except for the bees.

  14. 14

    The imgur link I sent you a while ago is a series of pictures of a yellow crab spider we discovered in our garden. We discovered it in the act of sucking the innards out of a rather-large wasp it was holding in its front several claws, and by turning over the leaf it was on, I disturbed it enough to cause some serious food droppage.
    I think it was a week before the kids stopped reminding me that I’d made the spider lose its dinner, and that it probably went hungry for hours before it caught another one!
    But I got some awesome photos that time.

  15. 15

    I brought some dug-up saplings down to San Antonio from up in Northeast Texas and found, a week or so later, a very large orb spider had set up on the roof of my porch. We don’t have spiders like that down here, too dry probably. She lived all summer long and I got to teach my kids a few things. They loved her. She was beautifully banded and was about 3 inches long and started out quite successful. Then my kids started throwing crickets (which we were having an overabundance of that year) into her web and she made out like a bandit. She left behind 4 egg cases, but we never saw any offspring. I wish camera phones had been invented in those days.

  16. 16
    AlanWill1ams .

    This is probably the species of spider Robert Frost was talking about in his poem

    which still gives me a chill:

    I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
    On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
    Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
    Assorted characters of death and blight . . .


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