Atop Darien

Bee Curiosity

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Native Bee Resources

Want to learn more about our amazing diversity of native bee species. Here is a nice video providing a brief overview of native bees.

Native Bee Pocket Identification Guide: This is an identification guide created by Xerces for the state of Pennsylvannia. It will be quite useful for most bees that you will encounter in Massachusetts. Link:

Bee Basics – An introduction to out native bees: This is an absolutely fantastic and free document that gives an overview of bee biology, conservation, and It also has beautiful artwork and is easy to understand. Link:

Louie Schwartzberg’s incredible film on pollination.


Xerces Foundation: This is a nice page about ways to conserve pollinators.

Xerces Foundation: This is a nice overview of native bee biology.

The Buzz on Native Bees. This is a nice blog post about native bees from 2013. It is from the USGS and their staff scientist Dr. Hannah Hamilton.

Native bee identification adaptive key from Discoverlife: This is an excellent resource to key out native bees to genus or species. With a little bit of knowledge of bee morphology, you can identify most bees in the Northeast US to genus. Link:

USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab: This site has amazing photographs of native bees and other insects. Sam Droege is also an amazing biologist, scientist, and person. Link:

Here is an example of a few photos that you can find on the website. These photos are all part of the public domain and can be reused for any purpose. See Sam’s flickr page for more details.

Handy Dandy Bee Manual: Fantastic resource and guide useful when doing conservation, research, or monitoring project on native bees. The Handy Dandy Bee manual has the protocols and background material needed to do most types of bee monitoring, including how to process and store specimens. Link:

Bug Guide (Native Bee Photos): This is a terrific website that has a strong community base of naturalists that post and identify photographs of insects taken in the United States.


Wilson, J.S. & Carril O.M. The Bees in your backyard: A Guide to North American’s Bee. Princeton University Press. 2016.

Xerces Foundation. Pollinator Conservation Handbook

Michener, C. Bees of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press. 2000


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The presence of wonder

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” E.B. White

Around every corner, underneath every pebble, and surrounding a blade of grass, a magical, wild, wilderness exists, if you only take the time to look and let curiosity guide you. Wonderful moments exists around every corner and, for me, I captured this feeling with this photograph of a spider, staring off into the distance, perched on a leaf of goldenrod, like “stout Cortez…silent, upon a peak in Darien”.


To me, this spider is like

“stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.”

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer ~ Keats

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Munch, munch, munch

As caterpillars, monarch butterflies need to eat milkweed plants to thrive. Milkweed plants are quite toxic to most insects and monarch butterflies have evolved the ability to sequester the cardiac glycoside toxin within milkweed and ways to circumvent the gooey latex that comes out of the leaf. The plant uses latex to glue an unlucky insects mouth shut. Here are a few pictures from the past week of some large monarch caterpillars.


5th instar monarch on common milkweed

Evidence that a monarch caterpillar sniped the milkweed vein to prevent latex from flowing

Gooey Latex from milkweed

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More monarch caterpillars

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Neck and neck….and neck…and neck

The drought this summer has been so bad in southeastern Massachusetts that the pond at Wheaton Farm in Easton has nearly dried up. On an early Sunday morning in September, I was able to walk out into the middle of the lake and came across a flock of Great Egrets (also know as a “wedge” of egrets) and a single great blue heron.

As I was watching the flock of birds, I was able to capture 4 egrets taking off at the same time in nearly the same position. Here is the photo.


I love how their necks are in almost every position that you would see, some extended, some curved, and the wings are in the middle, up stroke, and down stroke as they take off to fly.

Here are a few other photos of the “wedge” of egrets.