Friday, December 3, 2010


I am looking at a picture I took several years ago of a bee visiting a sunflower. The head and front part of her body are metallic green. The last part, the abdomen, is striped black and white. A very striking little bee, a jewel contrasting with the golden yellow of the flower. She carries two enormous baskets loaded with pollen on her hind legs. These ingenious organs resembling grocery baskets are made of abundant longish feathery hairs that hold the loose pollen grains. She keeps working the little florets at the center of the flower in search of additional pollen and some nectar to carry home for her children. These bees can be quite abundant in suburban gardens but often go unnoticed by human visitors; their role in the garden remains mysterious and irrelevant to the gardener, no matter how conscientious he or she is about the needs of the plants. These bees are so unknown to most of us that they haven’t even earned a common name. Scientists refer to them by the intimidating name of Agapostemon virescens. I wish I could tell you what Agapostemon means; all I can say is that virescens refers to their green color.

I notice in my collection another picture of a bee on a sunflower. It looks like a mirror image of the first; same colors, same posture, same heavy load of pollen. Except that this picture was taken four years later. It isn’t the same bee, not even a sister; more likely it is the great-great-granddaughter of the first. I delight on the symmetry of these far removed generations. Life goes on in the wildflower patch. I wonder if the flower is also the great-great-grandchild of the first one. It is possible. Symmetry of a different dimension: the flower nourishing the bee and her brood so she can carry on year after year and the bee ensuring that the plant can make seeds and reproduce. Two distinct threads of life intertwined for eons.

List of articles

© Beatriz Moisset. 2011