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  • Joe Dlugo

A Bee Safari at Waterfront Botanical Gardens, Kentucky

It was by coincidence that I found myself in Louisville, Kentucky for the opening week of what promises to be a stunning botanical garden. I felt a bit of a pioneer spirit here. It was only open a few days prior to my visit and it’s likely mine was the first ever bee safari here. I’ll never know, but I’ll say one thing is certain: I photographed the pioneer bees of this ambitious public garden site.

With several good bee plants in place and some warm early fall weather, there were plentiful numbers of at least three species on the flowers. The most numerous were the large and charismatic eastern carpenter bees, Xylocopa virginica.

An eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, on seen from in front while standing on a blue lobelia
Xylocopa virginica - Eastern Carpenter Bee, female

Eastern carpenter bee male (Xylocopa virginica) with tongue extended, feeding from blue lobelia
Xylocopa virginica (male) - Eastern Carpenter Bee

The carpenter bees enjoyed the great variety of flowers but seemed to have an affinity for Intenz Classic Celosia, which was planted in abundance near the entrance to the Graeser Family Education Center. This flower’s laser beam pink colors made for a stunning flower/bee combination.

Bumble bees were also about. I could only find one species in small numbers, the common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens). They were interested in catmint flowers in the parking area as well as in the abundant plantings of Geranium maculatum. This rather fuzzy and rotund future queen appears to be grooming her tongue after a few sips of fine nectar from the impressive purple blooms. She’s fueling up for a long winter’s nap.

Honey bees were also present, as they would be in an urban garden of sorts. This one visits the same purple Geranium flowers. Non-native honey bees aren’t my personal bee of interest as they compete with native species for limited resources. However, the world over they offer valuable resources.

A honeybee
Apis mellifera - the honey bee

A visit to the grounds is an enjoyable affair, and a glimpse into the future of this site can be seen as machinery rearranges the surrounding landscape into future garden sites. Surely in the coming years both floral an pollinator diversity will flourish. I hope to visit several years hence and document the changes.

-J. 10/15/19

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Joe Dlugo photographing bees on a tallgrass prairie

Joe Dlugo

Welcome to Bee Safari!

This is the product of many long afternoons in the garden, planting seeds, pulling weeds, watching bees.

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Bee Image Galleries


The world is a lovely place that has thousands of different kinds of bees. Contrary to popular opinion, few of are actually colored black and yellow. In fact, a great many are green - like those in the photo above.  Most also do not live in hives making honey and beeswax. They do other exciting things. I hope you find this intriguing and want to dive into my bee photo galleries to see the diversity of their world for yourself. 

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  • 31 galleries

  • 26 genera

  • 405 images

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