Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Healthy Bug Obsession

I love taking pictures of native flowers. Appreciating their beauty by capturing them at peak flowering time is one of my favorite hobbies. I like to capture them in bud, in flower, with raindrops and sometimes in fruit. But I have a new angle these last few years. I like to document bug-flower interaction.

Bee on Styrax americanus
Even before I became interested in butterflies, I realized how satisfying it was to see a native insect enjoying and taking nourishment from native flowers. I might have noticed bees first, especially the medium-sized bumblebees. Smaller than the chunky carpenter bee but larger than the small metallic bees, those fuzzy bumbles are a delight to watch as they efficiently visit each flower for pollen and nectar.

Small bee on Eupatorium

I do really like the small bees too, of course. The different species have interesting colors and range in size from very tiny to just small. I can recognize they are bees (instead of flying ants) because they have pollen packed onto their little legs. They specialize on small flowers and I’ve learned which bees to expect on which flowers.

Coral hairstreak on Asclepias tuberosa

Skippers, butterflies and moths are beautiful floral visitors but you have to be quick. They are shy of the camera (and the large person behind it) so I have to move up slowly, taking pictures as I approach. Each year I try to improve on the previous year’s pictures of these beautiful creatures.

After a while, I began to appreciate the beetles too. There are so many patterns and sizes once you start noticing them. Here too I have learned which flowers are most attractive to beetles. For example, flat flower clusters like viburnums and smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) are reliable flowers for soldier beetle photography.

Longhorn beetles having a really good time

Carnivorous bugs hang out around flowers too – it’s a great place to capture prey. I’ve found assassin bugs, ambush bugs, robber flies, praying mantis and spiders hiding out in the plants.

Sulphur caterpillar on Chamaecrista fasciculata
Another type of bug that is not necessarily interested in flowers is the larvae of the butterflies and moths – caterpillars! Thanks to attracting those adults with flowers, I can also find caterpillars of all kinds eating the leaves of plants (and sometimes the flowers too).

Seeing bugs of all kinds tells me that the garden is not just a garden for me, it’s a healthy habitat.


  1. I had some kind of small worm that completely stripped the leaves and flowers from my english dogwood. I don't mind the bees or beetles but I hate the worms. Its hard to believe such things can turn into beautiful butterflies. I wish I didn't have such a phobia about worms and caterpillars.

  2. Beautiful photos. I share your interest in the insect-flower interactions. Someday I'd love to try to document all the insects that utilize each of the different native plants around me, but I keep moving and having to start from scratch! Oh, well, challenges are good for us, I guess.