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!
Where has the summer gone? One of the frustrations of being an insect photographer is the inevitable end-of-season blues, when the cooler temperatures blow in and remove almost all traces of your favorite subject matter. Although we still have some time left for summer here in South Carolina, the first signs of the season’s wind down have begun. The katydids are quieting down at night and the field crickets have begun to hint at their end of season song. I no longer hear the frogs singing in the pond and here and there, the first speckles of color are beginning to stain the leaves. The one benefit of the cooler months is that I will have time to carefully go back through the thousands of bee-related images that I have made this spring and summer. I’l be sharing many of these with you here.
This has been a really great first year for the Beautiful Bees project. In truth, the project has only really been ‘live’ for a few months and it has received a lot of nice press in its short existence, from National Geographic, WIRED, Mother Nature News and The Weather Channel. I’ve begun to gain a better understand of how to identify species thanks to the help of some really brilliant experts like Étienne Normandin and John Ascher and have spent many hours in the field attempting to document the lives of a few species. I’ve traveled to California for National Geographic and photographed Black Tailed Bumble Bees flying in front of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, I also spent time in Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. It is hard to imagine that this is only the beginning.
My family and I live in a cabin of sorts. It is situated in a lovely little patch of woods, which is home to a wonderful variety of wildlife. One of the first things you learn when moving to the country is that there isn’t much of a boundary between your walls and the boundaries of the creatures living just beyond them. Sometimes those boundaries are shared. When we first moved out into the country just over eight years ago now, I was a somewhat surprised (for some silly reason) by the number of animals that would make an appearance in our home or use our walls as their shelter. However, over time, I have come to love the fact that lizards disappear into the cracks and phoebes nest high above our front door each year (in spite of the fact that they love to decorate our front door with their droppings for a few days…admittedly not a big fan of that). Now that I’ve focused my work on bees, my son Ethan and I –my very talented bee hunting partner– have noticed another very tiny resident, a Mason Bee (Heriades sp, Neotrypetes), who has set up her home in our walls.