OK, I am exploiting some literary license with the title of this post—bees don’t have a bum after all—but I just couldn’t resist! The item in question is actually the abdomen of a bumble bee.
I took this series of pictures on Deas Island when I went to visit my favourite ant nest (see Macro photography of western thatching ants (Formica obscuripes) tending aphids). I was watching the ant highway, marvelling at the constant stream of bug bits that were being carried to the nest. I was wondering how to photograph them given how quickly the ants were moving when, one little ant came struggling along hauling this enormous (by ant standards) bumble bee abdomen. It was moving quite a bit slower than the others and the abdomen kept getting caught amongst the plants and debris along the way. Eventually it dropped its load and other ants eventually started to help. Help might be too strong of a word as it seemed like each ant wanted to pull the abdomen in a different direction. The old saying about too many cooks kept coming to mind. Eventually one large ant got a good grip on the abdomen and literally dashed off to the nest with it. Sort of the equivalent of doing the hundred metre dash while carrying a hippopotamus.
By the way, when you look at the photos on this page you will see that the ants aren’t all the same size. Formica obscuripes has a “monomorphic” worker caste: the worker ants vary in size but they all serve the same function for the colony. They aren’t differentiated but shape and function like some species. That’s just a little ant trivia for you…
There isn’t really much for me to say about the photographic techniques used to get these pictures. Mainly I just had to get down on my elbows and knees in the dirt, focus, compose and shoot. The hardest part really was getting back up again! Sad but true…
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus E-620 digital SLR
Lens: Zuiko 35mm macro
Settings: manual exposure (F11-22 @ 1/60 sec)
Lighting: Olympus RF-11 ring flash (manual; ¼-1/2 power)