Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Brief Lesson in Entomology

As a nature photographer, I make it my goal to not only document, but also to learn about the creatures I am photographing. Knowledge engenders respect, and respect is an important element in the photographer - wilderness relationship.
It means that we think about our impact on the landscape, and not simply how we might get the most impressive photograph.
On a smaller scale, I believe that identification of subjects is educational and can sometimes even be of scientific interest. As a friend of mine once said, "I get angry when I don't know the names of things."
Laypeople often feel confused by the myriad of buzzing, crawling, and climbing critters around them and resort to calling them all "bugs."
This is all right if you are pointing to a critter on a flower and exclaiming to your friend, "look at that bug!" But, in the age of the internet, I know many of you will further be uploading images of said bug and would like to title it something accurate and informative. There are several websites which can help you with this, one of them being . But I will also try to help. Here is a common mistake:
Many people see this unoffending critter and exclaim, "Bee!" 
But this isn't a bee. This animal isn't even in the same order as a bee. This is a hover fly (order Diptera, for those who are interested).
This, on the other hand, is a honey bee (order Hymenoptera):
Here are a few things to look for:
-eye shape - a fly will have large, broad, flat eyes. A bee's eyes will be generally be smaller and set on the sides of the head
-hair: bees are generally much more fuzzy appearing than flies
-wings: bees actually have four wings, while flies have two (this can be hard to see though, as their wings are clear)
-antennae: bees usually have longer antennae than flies
And here is another kind of bee, a carpenter bee, for comparison:

Again, you can see his hairy body, long antennae, and offset, tall oval-shaped eyes.
I hope this was helpful and, as always, thanks for reading!

Photo info:
Nikon D70 + Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens

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