Bees 2.0

Bee in flight

Here’s a great rumor to start: too much cellphone use makes one think and act like Tiny Tim:

Tiptoe through the window
By the window, that is where I’ll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me.

Oh, tiptoe from the garden
By the garden of the willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me

Knee deep in flowers we’ll stray
We’ll keep the showers away
And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me

Red Tulips

Up to 90% of honeybees have suddenly died in 27 states in this country, as well as other countries. Tell that to your friends on Twitter.

Bee in flight

Apple makes sexy hardware, but nothing as sexy as a lusty red tulip.


Have you ever noticed how delicate a honeybee is?

Honeybee on Grape Hycanith

This is my idea of ‘more is better’.

Bunch of flowers

Photography Places

Lady of the Lake: Mingo National Reserve

I went to the Mingo National Reserve this week–the last bit of bottomland left in the delta region of Missouri’s boot heel. It’s full of cypress swamps, marshes, a river and a lake, and is an important breeding ground for migratory birds. If the sounds I heard were any indication, the number of species that inhabit the grounds must be enormous.

I walked one trail and the songs were so loud and diverse that I found myself spinning about, trying to identify even a few of the birds I heard. No matter where I went, my movement always triggered a rustle in bushes, leaves, or water. What was both tantalizing and frustrating is that I would only catch a glimpse of whatever moved: a black and white hint of a woodpecker wings, the shadow of a eagle overhead, a heron peaking out at me from the trees. Never, quite seeing the whole.

As I drove the auto tour–a rough twenty mile road open four months of the year– biting and stinging insects would immediately come in through the open windows whenever I stopped, which was frequently. When I started back up again, the insects were just as quickly gone–not before leaving a souvenir, or two. I didn’t care, as it was a small price to pay to be surrounded by such mysteries.

I grew up in the Northwest, in a land full of white water rivers, huge open lakes, tall mountains, and vast fields. It is so unlike the small, secretive swamps and marshes unique to the south. There is no habitat that speaks to me more of being in the south than to walk in a cypress swamp, which is probably why I find them both compelling and disconcerting.

We rose from the depths of swamps such as these. They represent the last bit of ‘original life’, though the world’s rush to make them useful is destroying most of them and their important cousin, the rain forest. The problem with the Mississippi delta is it’s considered some of the richest farmland in the world. Deposits from the river overflowing its banks have built up a top soil that is literally feet deep in some places. However, with such richness is a price: the land is wet, boggy, swampy, and flooding is a natural part of the ecosystem.

Still, people persevered, and much of the original land where indians camped for over 12,000 years–to hunt and fish in the dense forests, the rich waters–is gone; replaced by neat hoed rows and small towns. Replaced until the Old ‘Sip reminds us, from time to time, that we don’t own the land on which we live.

cypress swamp

yellow bird

cypress swamp

white heron



cypress swamp

lone duck on log

Photography Places

And now, Missouri news

The Department of Natural Resources did come out with an update on the Johnson’s Shut-Ins restoration.

You don’t know how much damage was done to the park until you see these photos, especially of the river restoration. I thought it seemed extensive, and from comments at Black River News the plan didn’t have universal blessing. I do know that a concept of Johnson’s as “good as new” seems distant. Having to artificially create a natural river–perhaps after viewing these photos, folks might question the rebuild of the Taum Sauk reservoir a little more closely.

I know it will be beautiful again someday. That part of the Ozarks is still beautiful now. But it’s not the same.

Other news that broke my heart was hearing that the building owners are going to have to take down the Switzer Building. This is one of my all time favorite buildings. Did you eat red and black licorice while growing up in the States? Then you’ve had licorice made here in St. Lou. According to the St. Louis Today article, the building still smelled faintly like licorice–wouldn’t that have been something?

It’s lovely to walk across the road deck of the Eades Bridge (the world’s first steel bridge) next to the Switzer building, just before passing over the Mississippi. It’s a walk through time in this once pivotal transportation hub of the country.

Now I imagine the building will be replaced by something made of steel and glass, and progress marches on.

Some photos of both places in better days.

Johnson's observation deck

Switzer building from the site

Johnson's in winter

Switzer building, river side

Path to Johnson's observation deck

Insects Photography Places Plants

Easter photos

I spent several hours this afternoon at the Botanical Gardens, which is becoming my typical Easter activity. It was a really terrific day, still cold, but pleasant when wearing a jacket over a flannel shirt. It was sunny, but with clouds, which can make the best pictures. I went later, when most people have gone home.

I managed to catch my second bee picture of the year. What was cause for concern is he was the only bee I saw my entire trip.

Bumble Bee

I also decided to get a couple of landscape photos, show some of the architecture of the place. The first is one of the administration buildings–a lovely brick with classic lines. The second is Tower House, where the Garden’s founder, Shaw, used to live.

The maze in the foreground of the second picture is tall enough for most people not to be able to see over the top.

Brick Building

Tower House

The Garden was at the end of its spring blooming season, with crabapple and Kanzan cherry trees at peak.

Kansan cherry trees

I was surprised to see bluebells. That was the oddest thing about this season–very early spring flowers are still in bloom, though the late flowers, like tulips, are almost gone.


Unfortunately, due to the record breaking highs, followed immediately by several days of hard freeze, most of the garden’s fruit trees were loosing their buds. The latest report on the impact of this weather is that Missouri and Illinois have lost anywhere from 50% to close to 100% of this year’s crops for some varieties of fruit trees, winter wheat, early corn, and much of the wine grapes.

It’s been a devastating spring for this area.

fruit tree loosing most of its buds

I chatted with another photographer at the park, a gentleman from Michigan. He mentioned how the colds we were suffering don’t impact on their fruit trees and plants, primarily because the weather doesn’t fluctuate so much. The Great Lakes help maintain a consistent temperature in the surrounding areas: cold in winter, mild much of the rest of the year.

I’ve decided to make the “Lake trip” later this summer, because I’m not sure I can handle a Missouri August this year.

Japanese maple

No matter what the circumstances, the Gardens are, and remain, beautiful–thanks in part to the critters, including this handsome grackle. Still no picture of my fox, though. Someday.

grackle among tulips

The dogwoods in the rhodie garden were disappointing, another tree impacted by the weather. However, this lovely Dicentra spectablis was still in excellent form. This is a flower that needs a closer look, as it’s much more complex than would seem from a distance.

Bright pink flower

I actually managed to capture a picture of a raptor overhead. It’s not perfect, but you can see the details of its head and feathers. Lovely bird, death to the poor finches, though.

hawk overhead

My favorite shot from today (other than the building photos) is of this lovely tulip, still in excellent shape.


Critters Photography

The Wasp

Paper wasps are quite common here in Missouri. Unlike other types of wasps, they’re not very aggressive, except around their nests. If you threaten a wasp’s nest, or agitate them in some way, they can sting and like other wasps, they can string repeatedly. Their stings are very painful (3 on the Schmidt Sting Pain index, or “Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut”), and if you’re allergic to stings, as I am, can be quite serious.

When the paper wasp started buzzing around behind the screens up in the corner of the french doors out to the deck, we didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until we saw her starting her nest that we knew we had to get rid of it and quick. You can’t have a paper wasp nest next to a door; not if you want to use the door.

However, you can’t knock the nest down when they’re building it. The old, “Busy as a bee. Angry as a wasp” thing. The day before yesterday, when she took off to get more material, I quickly went out with the broom and knocked the nest down and as quickly ran back inside, shutting the door behind me. She returned with the material, long gray streamer behind her, and buzzed all over looking for the nest. For over an hour she flew around in front of the door and around the corner. Eventually she landed, and sat for a couple of hours where her nest was. When she made motions of starting to re-build, I pounded on the door to disturb her and eventually she took off.

Yesterday, she returned to the same corner and again, and sat there for a couple of hours. With today’s storm, she hasn’t been back.

When she was building her nest, I did grab a couple of careful photos using my telephoto lens. It wasn’t until I processed the photo today that I noticed her nest had one tiny egg in it.

wasp and nest