Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Carpenter Bee on Phlox

Yesterday evening I found this carpenter bee sitting on the flower head of a phlox plant. It was sitting almost perfectly still, with its head tucked down near the bases of the flowers. This behavior is something I have observed with both carpenter bees and the slightly smaller bumble bees. The most likely explanation I have read is that they are biting the bases of the flowers to sip the nectar without pollinating the plant. This makes sense since I am not sure even a carpenter bee could get its tongue far enough down a phlox flower. The odd thing, though was that it remained so still, without the visible twitching of antennae or other body parts that I normally see on nectaring insects. It stayed still even as I kept bumping my camera into the plant to get better angles for photos.

As you may have heard, we had some excitement on the East Coast in the form of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. There was a lot of chatter generated by it, probably disproportionate to the magnitude of the event. There were a few news items that might be of interest to some of you. First, contrary to initial reports, there was some building damage in Virginia and the DC area, including the collapse of finials on the National Cathedral's main tower. Second, PhysOrg explains why the earthquake was felt over such a large area, from Georgia north to Quebec and west to Wisconsin. Scientific American has a list of the top ten East Coast earthquakes. Finally, here is an interesting bird-related note from the National Zoo:
The first warnings of the earthquake may have occurred at the National Zoo, where officials said some animals seemed to feel it coming before people did. The red ruffed lemurs began “alarm calling” a full 15 minutes before the quake hit, zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said. In the Great Ape House, Iris, an orangutan, let out a guttural holler 10 seconds before keepers felt the quake. The flamingos huddled together in the water seconds before people felt the rumbling. The rheas got excited. And the hooded mergansers — a kind of duck — dashed for the safety of the water.