Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have a story by reader Kurt Helf about which he called “Honeybee rescue in the time of Covid-19”,  and also a lovely astronomical photograph by Tim Anderson. First, Kurt’s story; his words are indented:

To break up the teleworking workday I take regular midday walks around the neighborhood.  Two weeks ago I noticed a dark, football sized mass on one of the flowering trees lining a neighbor’s driveway:
It was a swarm of honeybees (Apis mellifera) likely on their penultimate stop before finding a permanent residence. I didn’t think the homeowner, who is a single, older man and a bit of a recluse, had noticed the swarm yet. However, I was afraid that when he did notice them they would be destroyed. I know a couple of local Apiarists so I asked them, given the homeowner was willing, if they would come get the bees. I went to talk to the homeowner, rang his doorbell, and stepped back a couple meters to give him space. However, he was unwilling to even open the door. I left, dejected, thinking the swarm was likely doomed. However, as I walked by the next day I saw the following:

Apparently, the homeowner had noticed the swarm, called the state, and was referred to a local apiarist who came to collect the swarm. Nice fella despite being surrounded by a cloud of bees. Later that day I rode my bike through the neighborhood and noticed that, while the apiarist was gone, he had left the hive box behind.

He put the queen and all the bees he could collect into the little hive but left it behind so the scouts would have a chance to return at the end of the day.  While my assumption regarding my neighbor’s willingness to destroy a swarm of honeybees was wrong I *would* go through the same machinations again (is that evidence for determinism?) because you never know what people will do.  Anyway, a happy ending in gloomy times!

And from reader Tim Anderson in Australia, a CAT NEBULA, and sure enough, it resemble a cat paw:

This feline apparition is NGC6334, known as the Cat’s Paw Nebula—an emission nebula in the Scorpius constellation. John Herschel first observed it from South Africa in 1837.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 23, 2020 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I’ve been watching some bumblebees- Why do bumblebees hover and do rotations at about 90 degrees? It’s amazing- I think the structure they’re flying above has something to do with it – a deck, or the siding of a house. It’s like they’re mapping the area. They have a sort of hole in the wood they like.

  2. Posted May 23, 2020 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Very interesting! What is going on with the swarm is that they are not planning on staying at that spot. The swarm with a queen inside will sit in a mass like this, while scouts look far and wide to find a suitable nesting site. They then come back and “sell” various possible locations to the swarm with a bee dance. A consensus is reached, and they fly off to their new home.
    The beekeeper is giving them a home, but I suspect that to convince them of this it is important to not alarm them by transporting the box. before they commit to it. They can be moved later.

  3. docbill1351
    Posted May 23, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    We visited a kiwi fruit farm in New Zealand last year. They have a beekeeper on staff to maintain a hive spaced every other row. Due to a drought the kiwi fruit vines suffered and the beekeeper fed the bees daily with sugar water.

    • boudiccadylis
      Posted May 23, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      That’s interesting. Thanks

  4. boudiccadylis
    Posted May 23, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I am fascinated by the pictures of the Cat Paw nebula. I believe we’ve seen astronomical pictures of the Australian sky before. Is the vision of the sky so clear that these can readily be seen or does it take some sort of enhancement. When I lived upstate, before the area became so populated, I saw aurora borealis and could usually see big and.little dipper but nothing like the nebula.

  5. Andrea Kenner
    Posted May 23, 2020 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s good to know that there are still some kind people out there.

  6. sugould
    Posted May 24, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Glad that there was a happy ending to your story!

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