Photographers are frustrated, and rightfully so, with all the thievery on the Internet.
Like many other photos, "The Sting," is being used illegally for commercial purposes. It's appeared on sites like PhotoBucket where unscrupulous people sell it as canvas prints and holiday cards. It's popped up on Flickr, with clients claiming they captured the image.
It's appeared unauthorized and uncredited on coffee cups, iphone covers, t-shirts, tote bags, posters, games, YouTube videos, avatars and is available for "free downloads" on shady websites hoping to draw in more traffic--and spread a few viruses. Yes, it's even on porn sites to draw in prospective clients. If you Google "bee sting photo" you'll find it.
It frequently appears on pages showing "the world's most perfectly timed photos." It's landed on the websites of pest control companies advertising bee removal. health care merchandise, and medical products. It's on "funny jokes" and "funny animal" sites. Funny? What's so funny?
Several computer artists created an animated gif and copyrighted it. Most just crop off my copyright and add their own or their URL.
Filing a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint to prevent its illegal commercial use is time-consuming. And, it's like "whack a mole": take one down and 100 more crop up. Many are overseas copyright infringements.
One guy argued that it was a wasp sting, not a bee sting and "look at that long stinger!" (It's abdominal tissue.) Some say I Photoshopped it. Others say it was posed and that I spent all day in the lab killing bees to get that image. Not true. I don't kill bees; I photograph them. Others say "Finders, Keepers: If I find it on the Internet, it's free and it's mine." If I find a painting I like in an art gallery, does that same rule apply? Or a Ferrari parked outside our home?
"The Sting" now has a life of its own. It's a living, breathing thing that just won't fade away. Worker bees usually live about four to six weeks in the summer, but this one isn't going to die anytime soon. "The Sting" has become "The Sting."
Blue ants of the genus Leptogenys, native to southeast Asia, surround their prey, a massive millipede. It's almost like circling the wagons in a scene from the Wild West. Or "rodeo-style behavior."
The millipede coils into a defensive position. When it lets up its guard, returning to its non-defensive elongated position, the ants attack. One sting, then another, then another. Soon, countless stings. The millipede is doomed.
It's a sight few people ever see. The ants--yes, there is strength in numbers--attack it, kill it, form a living chain, and drag the carcass back to their nest. Their living chain is not unlike what honey bees do in their behavior called "festooning," (which we've seen multiple times at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis and at other apiaries).
No wonder ants and bees, which belong to the order Hymenoptera, are called "superorganisms."
Belgium-born Stéphane De Greef (and a Facebook friend) captured this amazing video, "Predation on Large Millipedes and Self-Assembling Chains in Leptogenys Ants from Cambodia," which is now an Internet sensation. You can see it here: https://vimeo.com/133320687
How big is the millipede? It weighs more than 1,000 times that of the tiny ant, De Greef says.
De Greef and evolutionary biologist Christian Peeters, of the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, discovered the previously undocumented behavior back in 2010. Although Peeters specializes in researching the genus, he had never seen the behavior before.
“We were on Phnom Khulen in 2010 looking for some rare ants, and turned around and saw this huge line of ants dragging a millipede,” said De Greef, 36, an environmental engineer, cartographer, nature photographer and nature guide who has lived in Siem Reap, Cambodia since 2002.
Born in 1977 in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, De Greef developed and pursued his passion for nature in his early childhood. He spent countless hours "roaming nearby forests, looking for insects, climbing up trees, digging for fossils and exploring caves."
De Greef went on to study environmental sciences in Belgium at at Gembloux's Agro-Bio Tech University (GxABT). There he developed a keen interest in cartography, information management and tropical biodiversity. He received a master's degree in bioengineering (Nature and Forests Management), concentrating his research on the biodiversity of tropical forests in Ecuador and Gabon.
Since then, he's traveled the world, spearheading a wide range of projects and missions.
- Mapping of societies
- Humanitarian Mine Action
- Environment and entomology
- Archaeology and exploration
"As an engineer, I have traveled all over the world since 1999, from Latin America to Southeast Asia via Europe and Africa," De Greef says. "I mostly work as an information expert and cartographer in humanitarian and development projects, environment and archaeology."
"As a photographer, my main areas of interest are the natural beauty of people, Nature's amazing diversity and the darkest aspects of human societies, As a video producer, I'm mainly looking into expeditions, news related to explosive devices and human rights violations."
And, all the while, De Greef has been capturing images of widespread interest in Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Haiti, India, Laos, Mali, Nepal, Sudan, the United States and the Western Sahara. (Read more about him in a photography online interview and on his website.)
In reality, de Greef is Ant-Man, Indiana Jones and the insect version of Internet Explorer all rolled into one.
He describes himself: "After playing a key role in 2012 in uncovering the ancient cityscape of Mahendraparvata using LiDAR technology, I now share my time between my nature photography work, most notably for the Meet Your Neighbours project and my Cambodian Bioblitz Initiative, and my nature and countryside discovery tours around Angkor as independent guide."
One thing is for certain: you'll never look at an ant "your" way again after you've seen these blue ants of Cambodia and how they circle, attack, kill, and drag away their prey.
Standing on her front porch last Wednesday morning, overlooking the Dutchman's pipevine that her mother Della planted in the 1920s, Louise Hallberg is a picture of enthusiasm, dedication and sincerity--or what her docents call her “indomitable spirit.”
Her butterfly sanctuary, a non-profit corporation since 1997, has drawn more than 30,000 visitors, including scores of wide-eyed children and their teachers and parents butterfly enthusiasts, gardeners, and nature lovers. “Over 1000 visitors came on our Open Gardens Day on June 28,” she says. Many visitors come from out of the county, the state, and the country, she said.
Her expression turns to concern. I"'m terribly concerned about the drought. We've very low on rainfall. It was 105 on Sunday. It's been so hot, so long.” She is deeply concerned about the decline of butterflies. “I've tracked the butterflies here since 1992,” she relates. “We're not getting the numbers we used to.”
Louise Hallberg, who will be 99 next January, was born on the family farm. Her grandparents, John and Louise Neta Pearson, initially purchased 40 acres and expanded it to 130 acres, growing hops, berries, cherries, prunes, pears and apples. The oldest of their three children, Alfred, later took over the farm, and he and Della--the one who planted that Dutchman's pipe---raised two daughters, Louise and Esther.
“I remember when my mother found the Dutchman's pipevine growing along a country road and brought it here and planted it,” Louise recalls. “Look at it now."
Louise studied at Santa Rosa Junior College and UC Berkeley, majoring in political science. Then she worked 35 years as Santa Rosa Junior College registrar, retiring in 1975.
But it was the pipevine swallowtails that continued to spark her interest and what led to the formation of the butterfly sanctuary. She monitors the populations of many species of butterflies, keeping careful records. The numbers keep dwindling but not her passion.
On our visit, we enjoyed the ponds, the vivarium, the “secret garden,” butterfly creek, pipevine theater, the woodpecker granary, the meadow garden, and the weather station that her family has monitored and maintained for more than three decades. .We glimpsed the Gravenstein apple orchard and ladders leaning up against the trees, a scene from yesteryear that never changes.
"We add new plants (funded by donations) every year," Hallberg says. The Hallberg Butterfly Gardens, in western Sonoma County, are open by appointment for docent-guided tours from April 1 to Oct. 31. Appointments are offered Wednesday through Sunday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (Contact the tour and volunteer coordinator (707) 591-6967 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a visit.) The non-profit corporation offers books, posters, t-shirts and other gifts. It annually hosts an Open Gardens Day in June that includes a plant sale. Louise Hallberg continues to publish her newsletter, aptly named "The Pipevine."
Meanwhile, during our visit, the red-spotted pipevine swallowtail caterpillars went about munching the leaves of the Dutchman's pipevine, while butterflies laid their eggs on their host plants: the monarchs on the milkweed and the anise swallowtails on fennel.
We thought back to the conversation on the front porch with this remarkable 98-year-old "Butterfly Lady of Sebastopol" and her love of the swallowtails, monarchs and dozens of other species of butterflies--and the worries she harbors, not for herself, but for the butterflies.
"It's been so hot, so long."
If you've ever seen honey bees foraging on primrose, you may have seen something unusual.
What's with the pollen hanging below their hind legs as they buzz from primrose to primrose?
There's a reason for that.
Distinguished emeritus professor Robbin Thorp of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nemalogy alerted us to the reason.
"Note the stringy mass (mess) of pollen hanging below the hind legs of the bee," Thorp points out. "Honey bees have great difficulty in collecting (actually packing into their corbiculae) pollen from any large flowered species of Oenothera. The pollen grains are very large, more than 100 microns, and tied together with viscin threads to form a webby mass. This is ideal for transfer by hawkmoths where stringy masses get attached to their undersides as they probe for nectar."
"Oenothera pollen," Thorp says, "can be collected by some native bees where the scopae are modified to contain sparse simple hairs where the webby pollen can be easily stored. But the corbiculae of honey bees are not well suited to handle this webby stuff, since it will not pass neatly through the 'pollen mill' of the honey bee hind leg."
He recalls seeing the same situation when honey bees were working his desert evening primroses.
And speaking of honey bees, it's National Honey Bee Day on Saturday, Aug. 22.
Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wrote a piece on a UC ANR blog published this week. He initially published it in the June 2013 edition of the UC IPM Retail Nursery & Garden Center IPM News but it's quite timely.
"The actual cause of honey bee decline is still uncertain," Mussen says. "What is known is a number of factors are probably involved. Honey bees are their most robust and able to best contend with stresses when well fed. In addition to water, honey bees require nectar sources for carbohydrates and a varied mix of pollens to provide proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, sterols, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Drought, flooding, and conversion of former foraging grounds into large agricultural monocultures, highways, airports, developments, and so forth have led to honey bee malnutrition in many locations."
"In the last 20 years beekeepers have been encountering a series of previously exotic pests that invade the hive and kill bees, such as the varroa mite; new honey bee diseases, including Nosemaceranae; and many viruses."
"Pesticides can also be involved in bee decline, especially when applied to plants when they are in bloom and bees are foraging," Mussen points out. "Many insecticides are highly toxic to bees including virtually all organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethroids. If not killed in the field, foraging bees can collect residue-contaminated pollens and bring them back to the hive for immediate consumption or long-term storage. There are serious concerns over the chronic, sublethal effects of these residues on the physiology of immature and adult bees."
"A newer class of insecticides, the neonicotinoids, which include imidacloprid, clothianidin, and dinotefuran, also pose hazards for honey bees. These products are systemic materials that move through the plant and are included in the nectar and pollen of flowers when they bloom. Although the neonicotinoid residues may not kill bees immediately, they may have sublethal effects, such as suppressing immune and detoxification systems, causing bees to be more sensitive to other stresses."
If you want to know more about neonics, be sure to attend the UC Davis neonics conference on "Truth or Myth: Neonicotinoids and Their Impact on Pollinators: What Is the Science-Based Research?” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9 in the UC Davis Conference Center. UC Davis researchers and state officials will address the crowd, announced conference coordinator Dave Fujino, director of the UC Davis-based California Center for Urban Horticulture. You can register on the CCUH website.
So you want to know about bee health?
Yes, there's an app for that--and you're welcome to download it for free.
Our good neighbor to the north of us, Alberta Agriculture, has just developed Phase 1 of its “Bee Health."
"It focuses on bee diseases symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options," says Provincial Apiculturist Medhat Nasr of the Crop Research and Extension Division, Crop Diversification Centre North, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Developed for iOS and Android platforms, it can be downloaded to the iPhone, the Samsung phone family and iPad. To download to iPad, you need to use the "iPhone only" option for down loading.
"We are currently working on the second phase that will include diagnoses of diseases based on symptoms," Nasr says. "It will also include an interactive feature to communicate with Alberta registered beekeepers It will facilitate bee diseases diagnostics, and communication to provide recommendations on line. Pictures can be emailed to Alberta apiculture staff for assistance in diagnoses. Broadcasting warnings of pest outbreaks will also be included. All reports and findings will be recorded in the provincial bee pest surveillance database."
He urges us to "please help yourself and download the app." To find the app, search App Store or Google Play store for "bee health" or follow this link: http://www.programs.alberta.ca/17713.aspx#ad-image-0
Have a question or a comment? You can reach him at email@example.com
This is a great show of sharing and collaboration for one common cause we all care about: improving bee health.