Isaac Chambers, one of my former high school field biology students, informed me of Gizmodo’s “Insects and Other Creepy Crawlies Challenge” a few hours after it was announced. I immediately decided I would use that several day photo challenge to try to capture a close-up of a native pollinator, the squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa), at work inside a squash blossom in our backyard.
Getting the best possible shot required a blossom that was uniformly lit from top to bottom. The daily window for getting the shot was quite narrow. Squash flowers open early, around 7 AM, and are closed and shriveled within a few hours.
The day following the challenge announcement was hottest day of the summer thus far. The beating sun was relentless, which proved perfect for uniform natural lighting and maximum pollinator activity. I selected a single squash blossom positioned at a 90 degree angle to the sun, laid out a soft gardening knee pad in front of it, and kneeled on that pad for close to an hour, capturing several hundred images within that blossom. Because the bees are quick and I’m manually focusing, I had to keep my movements to a minimum.
I’m pleased with the resulting image. It is a close-up portrait of a single squash bee on the pistil of the flower, highlighting unique facial markings, reverse tear drop eye shape, and antennal segment detail. Flower detail includes the sharp hairs (trichomes), laden with a number of different liquid substances that serve as pollinator attractants. The enormity of the cavernous flower relative to the tiny bee is quite clear. Best of all, the challenge made me establish a specific short term goal, determine how I was going to capture it, and the deadline made me go about it as efficiently as possible.
Equipment used: Nikon D3100 SLR, Nikkor 60mm macro lens, Kenko 12mm extension tube, Nikon R1C1 Macro Lighting System.