hummingbee

The other morning I was sitting with my camera in a patch of ajuga (a flowering ground-cover plant), communing with the bees.

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The bumblebees were loving the ajuga flowers and buzzed all around me. After some time I noticed a couple of bees that weren’t like the others. For one thing, they were a little bigger and had different markings, with reddish-orange patches on their wings.

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Also, they moved differently. While the bumblebees would fly rather jerkily and land on the flowers to feed, these strange “bees” would gracefully zoom from flower to flower, hovering but never landing as they drank the nectar. Actually, they flew just like hummingbirds. They sounded like hummingbirds, too, with a low vibrating hum as opposed to the more high-pitched buzz of the bumbles.

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I took a few photos, but my first attempts were complete failures. I was using a manual lens, and long before I managed to focus, the hummingbees (as I’d nicknamed them) had moved on to other flowers. They were utterly deaf to my pleas to stay put for just one second.

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I then wised up and started to anticipate their movements, pre-focussing on a flower and snapping as soon as a hummingbee appeared in my viewfinder. Still, my keeper rate was only about one shot in twenty.

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You’ve probably guessed by now that these insects aren’t bees at all. A Google search informed me that they are in fact a type of moth, specifically, a hummingbird clearwing moth, or Hemaris diffinis. These fantastic little creatures must have been here all along, hanging out with the bees, unnoticed by me until now. Well-played, Nature, well-played.

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10 thoughts on “hummingbee

  1. Paige

    I saw one of these critters for the first time several years ago, after we had made the move to New England. I had no idea what it was but I labeled it the same way you did. They really are amazing creatures and they hover around my lilac trees. Your photos are amazing, thanks for posting! : )

    Reply
    1. bythebriny Post author

      Thank you! I bet they love lilac flowers. I’m surprised I haven’t seen them around before, but I guess I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

      Reply
  2. Beauty Along the Road

    Fascinating – I also love your creative discovery of anticipating the moth’s movement and getting better shots that way. Last year, I had several photo sessions trying to capture hummingbirds hovering over flowers – a very similar challenge 🙂

    Reply

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