Bumblebee ( Bombus  spp.) on Cardinal Flower ( Lobelia cardinalis )

Bumblebee (Bombus spp.) on Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

...of the softest
softness in the world;
you tumble
into a corolla
to conduct your business...
— Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Chilean poet-diplomat

When I found this little bee he was so deep inside this lobelia bloom I saw only the very tip of his backside. He eventually backed out slowly and proceeded to meticulously clean off his tongue. I had never seen a bee's tongue; it was fascinating.

Its reddish-colored tongue (which basically acts as a straw and is covered with fine hairs which swab up nectar) is used to reach the nectary, found deep inside the flower. The nectary, you've probably guessed, is the part of the flower which stores nectar.

After observing him for a few seconds I discovered he was specifically interested in cleaning his maxillae, the sheath-like covering out of which his tongue protrudes, repeatedly swiping at what looks much like a tiny beak with his forelegs. 

When he was satisfied, he returned to his task in the nectary...paying me no attention at all. ♥

Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.