Today

The Friday Fillip: As Blue as a Bee

Things are more complicated than you imagine — at least I find that to be so.

I mean: there are more than 250 species of bumble bees alone; bees are more genetically related to ants than they are to wasps; and some bees are blue.

Hell, complexity is itself complex: it’s there whether you take the short or the long view. Drop back and not only are there 258 species of bumble bee, but thirteen whole families of bees, of which apidae, the family to which bumbles belong, is only one — and one shared by a host of other bees. In fact the whole taxonomy keeps spiraling in from Superfamily, to Family, to Subfamily, to Tribe, to Genus and only then to hundreds and hundreds of Species, reminding me of the thing we used to do with our addresses when we were kids, only we’d spiral out: second floor middle bedroom, 36 Devonshire Boulevard, Leslieville, Toronto, Ontario, Canada . . . until we got, via various stellar systems, to the universe.

So what about focusing in tightly? This is where the blue bee comes in. Sam Droege takes photos of bees, really really tight closeups of bees. He uses a special technique that puts all regions of the animal into focus, and the results are quite wonderful:

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

You can see three hundred other macro-photos of bees on the US National Park Service Flickr account. No matter which of these fine beasts you examine, you’ll see details down to the level of separate hairs — as complexity emerges despite our having tightened our focus.

There’s just too much to comprehend — assuming we’re not about to become biologists. Perhaps, though, if we treat each of these shots as a portrait, a work of art, we’ll able to capture everything and understand it whole — as beautiful. Or, if beauty and the bees isn’t your kind of story, then wonder might be the next best thing. So much complexity.

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