Hi, I’m Clay Bolt. I’m a natural history photographer who has embarked on a multi-year adventure to tell the story North America’s native bees through words, images and video. North America is home to over 4,000 known species of native bees whose services are worth an estimated $3 billion dollars per year to the US economy in the agricultural sector alone. It’s time to celebrate their extraordinary beauty, their value to our world and the challenges that they face each day. We need bees!
In nature, even death can be beautiful. Anyone who spends a lot of time looking for bees will also often find predatory species who wait patiently for prey to appear. In this case, a very tiny ambush bug (Phymata sp) has captured an equally tiny bee, Chelostoma philadelphi, that was visiting a mock orange blossom (Philadelphus sp). At times I find it difficult to stay on task when photographing a particular scene / subject because with nature, one good thing leads to another. It is all so fascinating! Thanks to John Ascher for the correct ID.
I was so happy to finally find a nice aggregation of ground-nesting leafcutter bees and it was fitting that I was able to do so on Mother’s Day since many mothers-to-be were hard at work provisioning their nests with carefully (and quickly) cut pieces of leaves to serve as linings for the developmental cells of their young. Project advisor John Ascher suggests Subgenus Megachiloides as the genus with potential species including rubi, integra, and integrella. I need to do a little digging of my own before I lean in one direction of the other. Some candidates include rubi, integra, and integrella.
I just returned from a great week in New York City. Although I was in town for a commercial shoot, I also had plans to search for bees in the city too. As luck would have it, I did see some really extraordinary species, they just happened to be in the invertebrate collection at the American Museum of Natural History. Native bee expert Hollis Woodard kindly introduced me bee expert Eli Wyman (pictured) who generously spent an afternoon showing me some of his favorite species in the collection. My mind was blown when he produced one of the only known specimens of Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto), which has only been encountered on two collecting trips: once 1858 by explorer Alfred Russel Wallace and then again in 1981 by entomologist Adam Messer. This bee, which makes its nests in active termite mounds on the Indonesian island of Bacan is thought to be the largest bee in the world. A huge thanks to Eli for also introducing me to renowned bee specialist Dr. Jerry Rozen. Dr. Rozen was also very generous with his time and I left the museum feeling both very inspired and also aware that I have a long way to go with my understanding of of bees.