“My deeper interest in biodiversity started when I turned nature photography into a hobby,” says Dimitǎr Boevski (@exonie). “Searching for subjects to photograph I started noticing creatures I hadn't noticed before. Upon getting home, I would check my books and the Internet for an ID and read more about the animals that I photographed. Gradually I built up my knowledge and learnt more about their ‘hiding places.’ I was amazed how many different and interesting species were living in my immediate surroundings.”
It’s Dimitǎr’s eye for detail and his endless curiosity that led him to the beautiful series of shots you see above. “At some time in the past I noticed that some of the holes in the wall have been sealed with mud and it was a mystery for a while how that came to be. One spring I found them open and not long after, I saw a bee getting inside. I stood there quite some time watching her buzzing around and going out for pollen. And, naturally, i took some photos.”
He didn’t stop there, though. “As usual, I wanted to learn more about what i have witnessed and found lots of interesting info - including,” he says, “that some people make artificial nests for solitary bees. This inspired me to make such a nest myself.” His artificial nest has one wall made of transparent plastic, so “you can see the internal structure of the nest with the chambers separated by mud walls. And lots of pollen.” So cool.
While they do nest in tunnels, often tunnels in wood, Mason bees (Genus Osmia) do not make their own tunnels (however their relatives, the Carpenter bees, do). As their name suggests, Mason bees find tunnels then use mud, clay, or similar substances to block-off sections of their nest tunnel into cells for individual eggs. A mother Mason bee will collect a large provision of nectar and pollen, then lay her egg on it and seal off the cell. She’ll soon start a new cell after that. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat up the nutritious provisions and pupate overwinter in the tunnel before emerging the next year. Some farmers put artificial nests in their orchards and gardens to the attract the bees, who are quite good pollinators.
Dimitǎr continues to explore nature and hunt for species (“much more interesting than pokemons!”), and finds that iNaturalist is a great place for him to organize and share his observations. “The data is very well structured which makes it possible to search it and view it in many different ways,” he says. “It is also very open, allowing other projects to use it. Being an editor in the Bulgarian Wikipedia, I always believed that information should be made as widely accessible as possible.”
- by Tony Iwane
- More Mason bee amazingness from Dimitǎr. This one is covered in pollen-eating mites that hitch rides on bees and gorge themselves on their pollen provisions.
- There are over 2,000 observations from Bulgaria on iNat. Explore them here!
- Check out some Mason bee action in this video.