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, album covers, 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."
Chris saw it first.
This morning Chris Mussen of Davis contacted his father, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and told him that the photo of him being stung by a honey bee made the Sacramento Bee's list of top 15 2012 stories.
Well, a son should recognize his father's wrist anywhere, right?
He told me to get my camera ready. My Nikon D700, equipped with a 105 macro lens and a motor drive), was strapped around my neck, where a camera ought to be.
I caught the image (actually four of them as my camera shoots eight frames a second) and the rest is history. The photo initially won the first-place (gold) award in a feature photo contest sponsored by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences.
The Sacramento Bee featured it, and later it was selected one of the Huffington Post's most amazing photos of 2012 and "Picture of the Day" on a number of websites.
It depicts a Carniolan bee reared by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey. At the time the image was taken, the bee was defending its hive.
Which is what bees do.
Usually a bee sting results in a clean break, Mussen said. This one shows the bee trailing its abdominal tissue, aka guts.
I earlier wrote about "The Sting" in a Bug Squad blog.
The thing is, people are still saying that I must have spent the day torturing bees to get that shot.
Not true. (Fact is, I've never killed a bee in my life except for the one I stepped on in Hawaii.)
Now folks are jokingly telling me I was torturing Eric Mussen.
Not true, either. He's been stung countless times, and each time, he simply scrapes off the sting with his fingernail.
Which is what beekeepers do.
When some folks think of a honey bee, they immediately think of stings.
Not pollination, not honey, not colony collapse disorder, but stings.
To beekeepers, stings are a minor irritation, or perhaps not an irritation at all. It's just something that happens in an occupation. "It's like grease on a mechanic's hands," says bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Or, I imagine, like flour on a baker, dirt on a gardener or sweat on an athlete.
Yesterday, when Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty was opening a hive at the UC Davis apiary, a bee landed on his wrist.
"Bee on my wrist," he said, knowing I had my macro lens at the ready.
The bee, defending her hive, did what a good guard does--she stung him. When that happens, you scrape the stinger off with your fingernail so the barbed stinger with its attached venom sac doesn't continue to pump venom.
When a worker bee stings and pulls away from her victim, part of her anatomy pulls away, too. She dies, often within minutes.
What you usually see is only the stinger. Not this time. The camera lens caught the barbed stinger and the stretched tissue.