In honor of National Pollinator Week, June 22-28, and as part of Asheville’s 8th annual month-long Pollination Celebration! Asheville GreenWorks tried to get a literal snapshot of which pollinators were active in Buncombe County throughout the month of June. The Contest ended June 30 with 428 entries. Some photographers submitted multiple photographs. The Bee City USA – Asheville Leadership Committee has selected winning photos for the following categories: Children, Teens, Adults and Professional. There are also numerous Honorable Mentions. Carolina Native Nursery and Reem’s Creek Nursery co-sponsored the Pollinator Photo Contest.
There are about 350,000 named species of beetles in the world, 20,000 species of bees, 17,500 species of butterflies, and 300 species of hummingbirds. Most, but not all, species of each category are pollinators. In Madagascar, even lemurs are pollinators!
The goal of the contest was to encourage our community to take a closer look at the creatures that enable the plants in our community to reproduce and fruit. By emphasizing pollinators in Buncombe County during one month, the Contest sought to draw attention to the seasonality of pollinators and how place-based they are. Asheville’s Bee City USA program works year-round to engage the entire community in doing their part to reverse the local and global pollinator declines that threaten not only pollinator species themselves, but also our human diets and nearly 90% of the world’s flowering plants.
Asheville GreenWorks manages the Bee City USA – Asheville program and Leadership Committee, which judged the entries. The committee considered the clarity of the pollinator, how the photo communicated something about pollinator diversity, and pollinator interactions with flowers, especially how they transport pollen on their bodies. Committee member Betsy Savely said, “Judging was a fun, learning experience for me. But the quantity and quality of the entries far exceeded our expectations, which made choosing winners extremely challenging.”
Best Overall Award
Jean Marie Dillon received the Best Overall Award for her photo of a Northern Pearly-eye Butterfly that appeared to be dancing on her windowsill. While this butterfly is a minor pollinator which mainly eats tree sap, dung, fungi and carrion, it also eats nectar from tree flowers such as river birch and black willow. Dillon said, "My husband and I were making dinner when I spotted this butterfly outside our kitchen window. It was pouring rain and the butterfly was seeking shelter. When I looked through my butterfly book, we discovered it was a Northern Pearly-eye--a first sighting on our property." In addition to its seeming ability to dance, the committee was captivated by its striped eyes and antennae.
Dillon wins a $250 shopping spree from Reem’s Creek Nursery and a professionally framed print of her photo by Black Bird Frame & Art. Other prizes include bowls, mugs and bee ornaments by JCR Designs; gift baskets from Gaia Herbs and the Center for Honey Bee Research; pollinator-themed greeting cards by Florrie Funk; pollinator themed-jewelry and artwork by Marie Colton Woodard; bee necklace by Mark Traub; books about pollinators by Douglas Tallamy and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; a $25 gift card from Ace Hardware on Merrimon; and, 6-packs of Buchi Kombucha.
Awards for Adults
The Adult category was the most competitive category. The committee selected Andy MacPhillimy's green metallic sweat bee eating pollen on Monarda (bee balm) for 1st place. Sweat bees are drawn to human sweat for its salt content. Their colors make them very photogenic, however, they go unnoticed because they are so tiny. Tim Sorrill won 2nd place for his bumble bees on echinacea. For her photo of a margined leatherwing soldier beetle (a firefly mimic) on milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Renee Dunaway took 3rd place. Beetles are considered the oldest group of pollinators on Earth.
Awards for Children 12 and Under
Awards for Teens
Awards for Professionals
In the Professional category, Paul Stebner was awarded both 1st place for his photo of a fritillary butterfly on bee balm and 3rd place for a photo of an Eastern carpenter bee playing hide-n-seek in a penstemon cultivar. Second place went to John Tyson for his photo of a honey bee with seemingly transparent wings.
Honorable Mention Awards
Most Unusual Bee: Marie Henderson for a leafcutter bee mimicking a carpenter bee on native Blue False Indigo (Baptisia). Leafcutter bees transport their pollen underneath their abdomen, while carpenter bees transport pollen mostly on their back legs. Notice the two yellow “bedroom slippers” on the back feet? Those are pollinia, most likely from a milkweed flower. Only milkweed and orchid flowers attach pollinia, rather than pollen grains, to their pollinators.
Photos Taken Outside Buncombe County: Courtland White for a photo of a bumble bee on non-native dahlia taken in Henderson County. This photo was outstanding for its clarity and composition.
A Face Only a Mother Could Love: Joseph Patterson for a male Eastern carpenter bee on American wisteria. Most carpenter bees are famous for their green eyes and the spot on the male’s face. The Eastern carpenter bee is larger than most carpenter bees and, consequently, has become an unwelcome guest when they chew nesting sites into the exterior wood of our homes.
All Hail The Monarchy: Julie Rogers for male and female monarchs on non-native butterfly bush. The two black pheromone dots (scent pads) on the lower wings near the abdomen indicate which monarch butterflies are male. Imperiled monarchs are famous for their up to 3000-mile migration from Canada to Mexico. The best way to bring them back is to plant milkweed native to your area.
Bee-Loved Flower: Megan Riley for brown-belted bumble bee on native Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa). Riley’s bumble bee appears to be giving this flower a hug! It is not unusual to find a bumble bee or squash bee sleeping in a flower overnight, especially if the flower closes its petals during the night.
Dreamiest Native Solitary Bee: Mark Troy’s leafcutter bee on rue anemone. Troy’s photo allowed us to imagine life as a bee quietly moving from flower to flower. We tentatively identified this bee as a leafcutter due to abdominal cues: black stripes on top and apparent white pollen underneath. Most bee species transport pollen on their back legs, not under their abdomens. Leafcutter bees line their nest cavities with small disc-shaped leaf cuttings.
Eye Popping Pollinator: David Harris for Orange Sulphur Butterfly. Not only were Harris’ photo and subject matter stunning, those bulging green eyes were unforgettable!
Fuzziest Bumble Bee: Wendy Stovall for bumble bee in non-native gladiola. Stovall’s photo demonstrates not only what makes bumble bees so adorable, but what makes them and other bees such good pollinators. Their fuzzy hairs are literally magnets for pollen, and also help to keep them warm. Bumble bees can fly at cooler temperatures than most other pollinators.
Lover Bee: Celene DeLoach for male leafcutter bee with hairy front legs. When mating, this bee species uses those hairy legs to cover his mate’s eyes, presumably so she won’t be attracted to anyone else!
Most Awesome Antennae: Diane Puckett for Melissodes long-horned bees on echinacea. This bee species’ abnormally long antennae are not just for show. Like all insects, in addition to other functions, the antennae enable them to smell extremely well—crucial to finding nectar. Flowers produce nectar exclusively to attract pollinators.
Most Tasteful Proboscis: Lindsay Gadzinski for pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor) on non-native lily. This photo is educational on many levels. It illustrates what most butterflies do with their tongues (proboscis); they roll it up under their chins and extend it when they drink nectar. The butterfly is facing the flower’s male part, the stamen, which is topped off by pollen-filled anthers. The butterfly’s wings appear to be sprinkled with yellow pollen. Dutchmen’s Pipe (pipevine) is the larval host plant for pipevine swallowtails, imparting chemicals (aristolochic acids) that when ingested by the caterpillars make them poisonous and distasteful to predators. Four other butterflies mimic pipevine swallowtails in hopes of discouraging their would-be predators: spicebush swallowtail, Eastern black swallowtail, dark form of the Eastern tiger swallowtail, and the red-spotted purple butterfly.
Packing Pollen: Joe Adams for bumble bee on lavender. Both bumble and honey bees use their front legs to comb pollen from their bodies, storing their pollen on their back legs where they use nectar to mold it securely into balls. (Ever wonder why the bee pollen you buy comes in little balls?) Pollen may be red, yellow, black, white, etc., depending upon the plant species.
Pollenpalooza: Cristina Garcia for unknown bee on St. John's wort. While the eyes, antennae, and hairy legs indicate this is a bee, it’s difficult to say what kind. But, oh my, what a pollen bonanza! Forensic researchers use pollen grains to determine where a specimen has been because they are so unique to plant species and the places they are found.
Shake Your Booty!: Donna Paxon for native solitary bee with abdomen tilted straight up! With the exception of honey and bumble bees, most bees do not live in colonies which have queens and worker bees. Like many bee species, this solitary bee has the tell-tale elbow antennae that help in narrowing down what kind of bee they might be.
Wings that Wow: Celene DeLoach for newly emerged eastern black swallowtail butterfly. (This is the second award for DeLoach.) DeLoach said, “I found the chrysalis on a coreopsis plant and watched it as it emerged.” In this photo, the butterfly cannot yet fly because the wings have not yet fully filled with liquid.
Best Wannabee: Renee Dunaway for a bee mimic fly. This is the second award for Dunaway. Many species of flies are important pollinators. Indeed, midge flies pollinate chocolate and coffee in the tropics. Although Dunaway’s fly is yellow and fuzzy, on careful inspection, you can see that its antennae are way too short for a bee, it has only two wings rather than four, and it has eyes like a pilot’s goggles!
Photos Taken Before June: Sam Hollis for a hover fly on azalea in Bent Creek. Like Dunaway’s fly above, you can see that its small antennae are way too short for a bee, it has only two wings rather than four, and it has eyes like a pilot’s goggles!
This June marks Asheville’s 8th annual Pollination Celebration! You’re thinking honeybees, right? How much do most people really know about honeybees? Let’s see…they make delicious honey. Oh yeah, they also pollinate crops. It’s no wonder they’re popular. They’re the poster children of feeding the world.
But they have secrets… Please don’t shoot the messenger. Here goes. They are not originally from the U.S. and compete with native bees for resources. Now understand this isn’t the honeybees’ fault. It’s not as if they decided to fly here with the sole intention of invading our country. They were imported from Europe to Virginia in 1622 to make honey and pollinate crops. When you get right down to it, they’re agricultural animals with the same function as cows or chickens. They feed us.
So, what, pray tell, is wrong with that? Nothing. That is until the crops they pollinate are no longer in flower. That’s when they compete with 4,000+ native species for food. So how do we balance the farmers’ need for crop pollination with that of wild bees? Do we have to choose? Not if we plant enough nectar and pollen producing vegetation for both. Bees use a tremendous amount of energy collecting what they need. The more they find in one area, the less they must travel. This is the same concept as why you go to the closest grocery store.
Here are suggestions to help you save wild bees and continue to adore honeybees guilt free:
Some wild bees use cavities in wood and hollow stems for nesting sites, so provide bee hotels. You can make your own by drilling several holes ranging from 1 – 25 mm wide by 150 mm long in fallen trees or stacked wood you don’t intend to use. Bees will nest in a size that fits their body, so having a variety will ensure nesting opportunities for several species. When cleaning up your garden or pruning shrubs, leave at least a foot in height of any plants that have pithy stems. Bees will excavate them to nest in.
At least 70% of native bee species nest in the ground. The more nesting opportunities you can provide, the better. Create bare patches of soil here and there for them to excavate. They prefer sandy, well-drained soil with minimal surrounding vegetation (like no traffic areas of your lawn). They may use garden beds if necessary, so don’t use weed barrier fabric. It might as well be concrete to a bee.
Do not use pesticides. They kill insects (bees) through direct contact or from being ingested. Pesticides, including neonicotinoids, are linked to Colony Collapse Disorder. Ask retailers for pesticide-free plants and remove weeds by hand.
Avoid using overhead sprinkler systems. In nature, bees receive warning signals of impending rain and return to their nests for cover. Sprinkler systems provide no warning. When bees return to their nesting site, it is often muddy, landmarks are gone or changed, and nest entrances are obliterated. If bees remain confused about this altered state of their surroundings, they will often abandon the nest with young inside because there’s nothing else they can do. Instead, use sprinklers at night or better yet, install drip irrigation which also conserves water.
If you have a bird bath, keep in mind a bee can drown by landing in water too deep for them to stand in. Add a rock or other surface to it (that’s not clear like water) for them to stand on. You can also provide a shallow dish such as a jar lid. Fill it 3/4 with sand then top off with water. Butterflies will also appreciate this offering.
Plant as many native flowers, shrubs, and trees that bees prefer as you possibly can. This is especially important for beekeepers, as you have a higher concentration of bees that need to forage. Keeping them close to home will allow wild bees to forage elsewhere without as much competition. Asheville GreenWorks provides a comprehensive list of native plants, and nurseries that carry them, on their website.
All native plants and animals have a purpose in their specific environment. They’re interdependent. If Asheville genuinely wants to celebrate its status as the first Bee City USA affiliate in the nation, its residents need to provide for all bee species, not just popular ones.
Let’s all show our industrious little buddies some love by providing what they need!
The full event list with registration instructions for Pollination Celebration! can be found HERE.