Consensus-Building Perspectives on Politics, Religion, and Life, from Alex Zorach
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Agapostemon, Metallic Green Bee, on Chickory Flower:

Jun 24th, 2011, by Alex Zorach

This is a closeup of a metallic green bee, of the Agapostemon genus, on a chickory (Cichorium intybus) flower. This photo was taken in the Woodlands community apiary in the Woodland cemetery in West Philadelphia. This apiary consists of several beehives and an area left to grow wild with wildflowers. Although the wild area serves primarily to feed the honeybees in the hives, it also attracts numerous other species of bees, including this particular bee.

Note the pollen on this bee's hind legs. Like any bee, this bee eats the nectar of flowers and then pollinates the flowers by having pollen from one flower stick to its legs, to be deposited on another flower.

I am not an expert in insect identification, so I can't identify it from this picture, but based on the range, it is one of Agapostemon sericeus, Agapostemon splendens, Agapostemon texanus, or Agapostemon virescens. Anyone who is better at this than I am might want to try their hand with the Agapostemon identification guide on Discover Life and contact me if you can get a clear ID.

This is one of my favorite pictures; the color contrast is bizarre for something in nature, and something about it looks almost technological rather than natural. However, I think the strangeness and technology-like appearance in this photo emphasizes an important ecological concept: the phenomenon of pollinator-plant pairings has fueled evolution of bright colors and interesting flower structures. I took a lot of pictures before getting this one to come out.