I love it when I learn something new and it changes how I see the world. Suddenly I see something previously ordinary with fresh eyes and new appreciation. A recent example: insects and flowers.
This summer I took a course at the UNC Botanical Gardens on pollinators. And, suddenly, viewing flowers in a garden takes on new depth.
Before, my thought would have gone something like, “What pretty flowers, looks like the bees like them, too.” End of thought.
Now, I look more closely.
- I notice what kind of insect is there…sweat bee? bumble bee? honeybee? hoverfly (bee mimic)? beetle? wasp?
- I look for evidence of pollination. That’s what the plant wants the insect to do, and the pollen is really high in protein so many bees eat it (as well as the nectar) and feed it to their young.
- I try to see the insect actively getting nectar.
Example: My friend had a trumpet vine on her porch, and as I passed by one day, I saw carpenter bees crawling on the outside of a bloom.
- Previous thought (before taking this course: “Wow, that’s a big bumblebee! [I did not know how to tell carpenter bees from bumblebees.] Silly bee, that’s not where the nectar is.”
- New thought: “Hmmm. Trumpet flowers are red, and they are long and tubular. They’re pollinated by hummingbirds. Wonder what that bee is up to. Yep, look at that – it pierced the tube and stole some nectar without pollinating. I guess there is such a thing as a free lunch.”
There really is an infinite amount of stuff to know about the natural world. Some of it is already known by scientists; most of it is still a mystery.
Sometimes I feel bored with the everyday stuff, and I want to travel and see new and interesting things. Then, I take a course, or read an article, and something right under my nose, in my own back yard, that I took for granted seems fascinating. I wonder what else I’m missing.
I hope you enjoy these pictures!