UNLESS… Earth-friendly Chroniclers: Challenge 12 ~ Pollinator Portraits

Jane has chosen a fascinating subject this week:  Pollinators   She writes:  “Beyond the crucial ecosystem services they provide, pollinators are a diverse and fascinating group of animals in their own right. They include bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, some bats, some beetles, flies and wasps.”

Jane calls for portraits, so to my delight that suggests up-close macro shots.   I discovered a whole new world after i purchased a set of Vello extension tubes to fit on my 105mm fixed lens and starting delving into the ‘private world’ of flowering plants……

Topical too – as here in South Africa we learn that our R20-billion agriculture industry faces ruin as foulbrood rips through the country’s bee populations.  Bees are a critical part of our food cycle, with one in three mouthfuls of food reliant on insect pollination.   It’s a wake-up call when too little attention has been given to the health of this humble but crucial insect.  40% of the bees in the Western Cape have been killed off and that’s a big worry for the farmers of the area.

But besides the roll of bees the Cape Floristic Region has a fabulous array of pollinators.  The competition between flowering plants to attract pollinators has been one of the driving forces for the evolution of an amazing diversity found in the Fynbos biome.  Bell shaped flowers provide the ideal shape for bees to collect nectar with their two sets of wings, while flies with one set can sneak into smaller spaces. In the Ericas, the tubular flowers of some species have strongly curved flowers that match the specific bill shape of the Orange-Breasted Sunbirds.  Butterflies are also specialist feeders uncurling their long tongues to reach down like straws into long-tubed plants.  To add to Jane’s list – rodents also have a specialised role in pollinating some of the low growing Proteaceae species.

I did a bit of research and found that 430 plant species are pollinated by birds, with the Cape Sugarbird and several of the sunbird species visiting as many as 300 protea flower heads every day during autumn and winter.  Insects play a major role, with beetles coming in with an astonishing diversity.  Currently, over 1 040 described species and 51 genera of monkey beetle are known from South Africa.

27 thoughts on “UNLESS… Earth-friendly Chroniclers: Challenge 12 ~ Pollinator Portraits

  1. These are absolutely gorgeous! Insects and flowers, birds and all – excellent pictures! Would you mind giving some info on those Vello extension tubes?

    1. Thanks Ann Christine. The Vellos are compatible with Nikon, made in China and reasonbly priced. I got a set of three 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm. They can be used singly or even stacked together. They have linkages to connect to the 105mm allowing AF etc. It increases the focal distance giving better reproduction ratio and increasing the magnification.

  2. What a fantastic gallery, Liz! Your photos are stunning and your well researched article a joy to read, we have learned a lot; your figures are alarming, I think the bee populations are suffering all over the world.
    Best wishes from the North, Dina & co

    1. As always thanks for your support 🙂 Lots of concern over the diminishing number of bees. By the way I enjoyed your blue-blue cornflowers – isn’t that the most heavenly colour?

      1. Hi Dina, thanks for your comments and the link. It’s heartening to read the efforts in Oslo in planting crucial nectar plants for bees. The more awareness the better.

  3. I really appreciate how good your photos are, because on the rare occasion I see an interesting bug or a plant to try to capture close up, there is always a breeze and I fail miserably!

  4. Amazing collection of photos – love all the diverse pollinators you show here! Sad that bees are getting hit on your turf as well. We depend on these friends more than most folks realize. Yet the spraying goes on. 😦

  5. Liz- Your South Africa pollinator portraits are outstanding, and the information about specific adaptations, and the relationships with pollinators is fascinating. I didn’t know that some rodents also play a role in pollination. Thank you for all the research and time spent capturing flora and fauna. It’s heartbreaking that bee populations there are also facing dramatic declines. I hope the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and other Pollinators that Obama signed last month will have enough traction to inspire positive outcomes for pollinators here.
    I am going to look into Vello extension tubes. You achieved very crisp and detailed shots… WOW!
    Thanks again for participating in this challenge and helping others learn-


    1. Hi Jane, i’m enjoying the subjects you pick, they’re topical on a global perspective. The bee crisis is disturbing and needs national strategy and that high level of legislation… too many random operatives here in SA and no clear policy on how to deal with the Foulbrood disease. Hopefully other countries can follow Obama’s lead. I was interested in Dina’s comments too, that Oslo has planted a “super highway’ for bees by planting nectar plants through the city. Also interesting to learn how many cities are introducing bee -hives on top of highrise buildings.
      The Vello’s are brilliant.. need patience though in getting the focus right.

      1. With new stories daily about the perils pollinators face, and the stresses / strains on ecosystems… it is a breath of fresh air to share the positive/ good actions that are occurring. Could that be why we are so dedicated, as a blogging community, to let others see more of the “good” side of things than we usually see in the news?

        As always, it’s a nice part of the day to have these conversations with you, Liz. I love having the window and perspective on SA… a place so far from here.

  6. Your macro photos are inspiring Liz. And as Dina commented, your article a joy to read. It’s a worry about the bee population, let’s hope it is not too late.

    1. Thanks for the supportive comments, Jude. This is a real wake-up call on the health of the bees! The crisis here has been ignored for the past two decades. And the story gets worse because there is no one authority advising how to tackle the issue or take measures across the whole country. It’s all too piecemeal, and will they use antibiotics for the bees or pesticide against the bacterium? There doesn’t appear to be any consensus. So sad!

  7. Wonderful photos Liz. I’m also just discovering the joy of extension tubes too. Great article about a concerning topic, let’s hope these declines begin to change for the better.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Christian. Yes, lets hope that better awareness drives the solutions to fixing a healthier bee population. I had another look at your site, and green with envy at the places your travels are taking you. Nifty, those little extension tubes – do the trick in increasing reproduction magnification, without costing too much. Happy clicking….

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