Bees are Buzzing Despite Drought Affecting Half the Country

f5.6 1/800s, ISO 1250, JPEG, focal length 300mm, Nikon D80

According to statistics by the U.S. Drought Monitor and published on the website, drought is affecting more of the nation than ever before in the twelve-year history of the U.S Drought Monitor, with 55.96 percent of the nation’s continental land mass in one form of drought or another.

f20 1/1600s, ISO 4000, JPEG, focal length 170mm  D7000 9:26 am Carpenter Bee

The country faces unprecedented water worries as we irrigate and water our lawns, take our daily showers, flush our 2.5 toilets, wash our one-day worn clothes, all the while, thinking little how half of our country is in some form of drought.

f8 1/125s, ISO 160, JPEG focal length 85mm D80 6:35 pm Monarch.  I just saw a great post today entitled, Gardening for Butterflies, by Stone the Gardener. When you finish here, have a look.

We have simply gotten to the point remarkably in this country that with the combination of little rain, scorching heat draining municipal reservoirs and increasing water consumption, that there is simply not enough to go around. And reliable predictions say the worst is yet to come.

f11 1/640s, ISO 1250, JPEG, focal length 195mm, D7000 Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

f10 1/2000s, ISO 2500, JPEG, focal length 140mm D7000 Ailanthus Webworm

The evident signs of drought are crop damage or loss, with streams and reservoirs getting low. In some areas, this is creating emergency situations. Colorado and Georgia are the worst affected.

f4.5 1/200s  ISO 400, JPEG, focal length 210mm D7000, 3:09 pm

The High Park fire was the most destructive in Colorado’s history to date according to the Nat Geo site. Lack of soil moisture and the recent high temperatures causing dry conditions are leading to a significant number of wildfires there and elsewhere.

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When the rains do come, the watershed is being compromised by the sediment runoff from the burned out watersheds. This has a consequence of tainting and clogging treatment systems.

f 7.1 1/1600s, ISO 2500, JPEG, focal length 330mm, D80

Medina Lake, shown left, providing water to farmers in San Antonio, Texas, has dried and dropped by 52 feet. This area has been the driest and hottest in the last twelve month history. What is unfortunate, is that farming and cattle raising in the state was established at a time when the area was much wetter, and looking ahead, predictions do not look too promising for Texas.

Click the image above to go to National Geographic’s site for additional information and images in slide show format. Some of the images, although beautifully done, are quite alarming showing how drought is devastating our country.

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And what is it like now, not just in general terms?

“The Southeast, Deep South, and Southern Texas:   Widespread heavy rains and flooding in southeast Texas resulted in significant improvement with the USDM depiction improving by two categories in parts of Texas and adjacent Louisiana.  Elsewhere along the front, drought conditions improved by one category in a few local areas where 2-3 inches, or more, of rain fell, from Mississippi and southern Arkansas to West Virginia, and from Georgia to North Carolina.  But expansion occurred in a few local areas missed by the rains in Alabama and North Carolina.  Exceptional drought (D4) expanded in western Kentucky and southern Illinois, severe drought (D2) expanded in northwest Kentucky, and D1 filled in the hole from northern Kentucky into southwest Ohio.  D1 expanded in the Florida panhandle which had below-normal rainfall and where low lake levels persisted.” National Drought Survey July 17, 2012

f20 1/1600s, ISO 4000, JPEG, focal length 185mm, D7000 10:04 am

Florida is a state where at one time it had too much water in swamps. With development, dikes, dams and diversion, Florida has built their way over many swamps. Aquifers are depleting because water cannot penetrate areas paved through development. Florida is leading the nation though in reclaiming waste water at 240 billion gallons annually. (source)

f5.6 1/500s ISO 360, JPEG, focal length 135mm, 7am

Ironically, coastal states like California and Florida have other concerns as well. With glacier melt caused by increasing temperatures, ocean water is rising each year which could cause aquifers to be compromised by saltwater at sometime in the future. Rising temperatures now also cause water to evaporate at increased speed where more water is lost even before it reaches aquifers. Aquifers are an underground lifeline of clean water stored in porous rock and sand.

f13 1/1000s, ISO 2000, JPEG, focal length 200mm, D7000 Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird

This year, the Midwest is being compared the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

The Great Plains to Midwest:   Unrelenting heat and lack of rain continued the downward spiral of drought conditions.  D0 to D2 expanded across parts of the Plains from Texas to North Dakota, from Missouri to Minnesota, and in the southern Great Lakes.  Extreme drought (D3) was introduced in Nebraska, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and D3 expanded in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Indiana.  The city of Indianapolis, Indiana, implemented mandatory water restrictions for the first time ever with many trees dropping their leaves and going dormant months early.  Exceptional drought (D4) expanded in Arkansas and was introduced in western Kansas.” taken from the National Drought Survey, July 17, 2012

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Many farms and ranches in Texas are being forced to sell off or abandon cattle and other grazers, like donkeys. After all, ranching is all about water and grasses. In 2011, Texas had its worst drought that cost state agriculture $7 billion in losses. (source) This article is citing how Texas is proactively fighting back with better farming practice, management and conservation.

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I am sure bloggers from the states mentioned and some that are not have images and stories to tell painting a very bleak picture. Our area in Western New York has also been affected by little rain and 90 degree heat. This is nothing compared to western states, but our area received little snow this past winter which aids in spring growth and maintaining trees over the summer. The water table is dropping and trees in our area are very much affected, mostly because they were stressed in 2011.

Why the photos of the pollinators?

I have been thinking more of the wildlife and how they are coping. This is the first year that I have been watering my garden beds, and only for the bees and birds. My plants support bees and birds and I could not let them be without. We cannot be without them either.

Strangely, the dry conditions benefit bees to a point. Rain washes away pollen and nectar from flowers, whereas drought conditions allow bees to collect all available food sources. The problem becomes when drought last too long and flowers succumb, the bees are placed in a delicate situation. Then the dry spell hurts as much as it initially helped.

f14 1/800s, ISO 1250, JPEG, focal length 200mm, D7000 2:01 pm

As food crops are drying in the scorching sun, our pollinators are losing their food supplies, and we in turn are losing ours. While I cannot grow measurable food crops, I can keep plants alive that will benefit the wildlife. I know this seems a practice that is wasteful of water resources, but what is the alternative?

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The plants in the garden for the most part, are native hybrids that weather dryer conditions, but they still need water.

Wildlife needs water too and three water sources are providing that for them.

f10 1/200s, ISO 200, JPEG, focal length 135mm , D80.  For the life of me, I cannot photograph one of these in mid-hop.  Too darn fast and unpredictable.

I have not been watering the grass, but you should see the number of grasshoppers and crickets. I have been feeding the birds too. Their natural environment is drying and native food sources less plentiful.

“The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic:  Light to locally moderate rain fell across parts of the region.  But even the heaviest amounts, which fell in southeastern Pennsylvania and extreme southeast New York, were barely above normal for the week.  Most areas were drier than normal and hot, with abnormally dry (D0) conditions expanding across New York, southern New England, northern Pennsylvania, and northern New Jersey.  Moderate drought (D1) spread eastward from western New York, grew in the Chesapeake Bay area, and was added to western Massachusetts.” National Drought Survey July 17, 2012.

f10 1/2000s, ISO 2500, JPEG, focal length 330mm D7000

I was away for ten days and much of the garden declined.

f13 1/800s, ISO 2000, JPEG  170mm D7000

The Monarda was the first to go. I cut it back hard and have been watering to encourage regrowth, like shown above. Luckily, the rain has graced our area this week finally. It was in the form of pounding storms, but you take what you get.

f10 1/2000s, ISO 2500, JPEG, focal length 300mm

The Caryopteris is just starting to bloom, and is a plant that takes dry conditions well, but is very appreciative of the rain. It is planted in an area, like my Black Eyed Susan, that never sees a drop of municipal water. Bees adore this plant, so don’t place it too near entertaining or play areas. You can see that bees also like the Sunny Border Blue Veronica. Veronica does take dry weather well as a plant, but loses flowers easily when dry. It just grows taller producing more flowers, keeping bees very happy.

f10 1/2000s, ISO 2500, JPEG, focal length 240mm D7000 This shot did not need an ISO so high since there was no flying, and I could have easily dropped to f5.6 or 1/100s. This image does have significant grain.

“Who Uses the Drought Monitor?

“The U.S. Drought Monitor sets the standard for communicating location and intensity of drought to a broad audience. The map summarizes and synthesizes information from the local and state level to the national scale, making it the most widely used gauge of drought conditions in the country. Policy makers use it to allocate relief dollars, states use it to trigger drought response measures, and media rely on it. The USDA uses it to distribute millions, even billions, of dollars in drought relief to farmers and ranchers each year, and the Internal Revenue Service also uses it for ranching-related tax determinations.” from… 

Go to this site above to see the actual and current map.

f7.1 1/1600s, ISO 2500, JPEG, 9:50 am focal length 210mm Nikon D80

The birds and bees photographed in flight were shot with a 300mm lens and high ISO like the post, Garden Photos in Limited Light. All images were shot on Manual, some on Continuous Mode. That is like Burst Mode on some cameras, where one can rapid fire the shutter. The D7000 gets six images per second.

There is some grain in some images when enlarged, but you can compare them to static images in this post with the ISO set more reasonably. I jumped around on the settings quite a bit so you could see how they end up having differing exposure with different settings. Hoped you liked the frequent flyers in this post!

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
This entry was posted in 2012 Drought, Bees, Birds, Did U Know, garden, Native plants, Nature, photography, photos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Bees are Buzzing Despite Drought Affecting Half the Country

  1. Andrea says:

    It is always delightful seeing your photos. I am happy too you put the camera information, the more i learn of my handicap 🙂 I also guess we should also rethink of how we can capture and store our rains while it still is generously given. It looks like we will be having a lot of water difficulties also in the near future.

    • It is only a handicap if you don’t try new settings, Andrea. I know that many of my shots could be a little better if I kept the camera on any of the numerous auto settings, but I find I learn so much more of what the camera can do if I don’t. Many pros (famous ones too) use Aperture Priority mode. This is where you select an aperture and the camera picks a corresponding shutter speed. I chose my own ISO when using it, but you can let teh camera pick that too. You can either focus the camera yourself, or auto focus. I recommend this to many of my friends that are just learning to shoot in tricky situations, since some pros use it, it really is a great help. Me, I used Aperture Priority mode in the beginning of owning the D80, but don’t use it that often now. But it is great for landscape and wildlife shots.

  2. John says:

    Good work, inspiring.
    Than You.

  3. stone says:

    That’s a heckuva collection of drought links you’ve posted… I’d almost get the idea that it was a bit dry in your neck of the woods…

    And still with a d1 drought (according to the drought monitor) you’ve got what I’d consider excellent gardening conditions. Back when I had my well drilled, (5 or 6 years ago) I was told that middle GA was in a 33 year drought… It’s gotten a bit longer since then… and drier…

    ‘preciate the link, it’s nice to be valued…

    Wonderful pictures, nice captures of the hummingbird and the monarda!
    Those flying bee shots are spectacular as well… Ima run out of adjectives…

    • We are pretty dry. Even the two storms we had did not soak the soil any measurable distance. It came down so hard and fast that it was mostly runoff. I had watered in the morning, so my garden fared a bit better. The ground was not concrete hard as a result and did absorb some. I was pretty astounded to see the Nat Geo slideshow. I never realized how bad it is in so many places in the US. You hear bloggers talking and complaining, but when you see it so raw like Nat Geo showed, it hits home. The animals are what got me. The plants come back by storing seed for when conditions better, but the animals have no recourse or alternative.

      Glad to note your link. You have some good info in that post, plus really nice photographs. Thanks for your kind words on my images too.

  4. Jeanette says:

    Your photographs are lovely but the drought information is alarming. What references do you use or suggest to become more informed about water policy.
    Your camera information is instructional for those of us tied to letting the digital cameras make any adjustments for us.
    We have plenty of grasshoppers this year. I am confident you could capture that midhop photo you desire. Thanks for your thoughtful posts.

    • I am a Master Gardener and we have reports and references available to us from Cornell, but they are pretty standard information, like the use of rain barrels, mulching, planting native varieties and such. You can Google Cornell Cooperative Extension and get some access, but really, most gardeners know this stuff. As an architect, I get reports also, but this stuff is too technical for most. These show soil conditions and underground water locations. Also they give wetland info. I have always had an interest in our water useage in this country, because when you think how it is in the rest of the world, it makes you wonder how we can be so wasteful.

  5. Thoughtprovoking. The photographs are amazing Donna! I love your hummingbirds.

    • Thanks Christine. The links do provide the information that really is what gets you thinking. My post was more to direct you off to sites that have greater depth. The hummingbirds are a pleasure. They love the Monarda, but oddly, were visiting the Iceberg Roses too.

  6. Inspiring photos of those pollinators at work. I visited Medina Lake in the spring and only posted one photo because the lake was so low. Things are much improved here in south Texas this year with more rain and cooler temps than the midwest region.

    The gulf fritillaries are all over the gregg’s mistflower which I planted after seeing monarchs on it at the nursery. I’m hoping to attract monarchs with it during the migration this year.

    • The recent Drought Monitor Survey (in my post) did say that there was rains in your area. I think the Nat Geo image was recent because I just got the email from them only a week ago. They really have Texas looking dry in a few images. I have been reading so much bad news for Texas and I think the problem is mostly from previous years building up. Your area needs sustained recovery and as of yet it is not sufficient according to what I have read. Since Texas is so big, there are places there worse than this I imagine. Good to hear your perspective that things are improving. I would hate to see cattle country affected like what the predictions are saying.

      You are in a great spot for the Monarch migration. Last year I noticed many did not migrate, and if they did, it was far too late in the year. I would love to do research on that. I found it odd last year I taking photos of them in late October. We had a freeze too which had to have taken them out.

  7. Oh So Cool – love that you capture hummingbirds! Happy Sunday:)

  8. gauchoman2002 says:

    So many great photos. It’s always amazing to see up close photos of the bees loaded with pollen.

  9. debsgarden says:

    The information, as well as the photos in this post, is great! June was extremely hot and dry here, and we found too many dead bees. Others clustered around our bird baths. Fortunately, July has been wetter, and with not so many 100+ days.

  10. Emily Heath says:

    Fantastic photos, it is not easy capturing such fast little movers. Hope some water comes your way soon.

  11. Excellent reporting, Donna–both through your links and information–and your stunning photos. Great post!

  12. Those are amazing photos! I tried using aperature priority mode today at Garden Walk Buffalo (the largest garden walk in the country) and I’ll let you know how that worked out.

  13. Your message is a scary one, I hope the weather patterns turn. We are on well water and thinking about the well drying up is a reality. Your pollinator shots are superb.

    • I am a bit scared with what I have been reading. If we lived elsewhere it would be more crystal clear I bet. We are too fortunate here in the US and are just starting to get a glimpse of what it is like elsewhere.

  14. I thought the pattern was changing and then the forecast changed again to 90s all week and no rain again…not sure how much the plants will take…most are going dormant or will bloom quickly and die…the pollinators are indeed busy gathering pollen as the flowers quickly bloom and fade…I appreciate knowing which cameras you are using as I think about getting an SLR digital camera instead of my old point and shoot digital camera that I use…fabulous shots!

  15. Meta says:

    One of your best blogs and photos. Thanks.

  16. Glad you shared this information with us… I live in the mid atlantic region and it has been years since our county has not had a water restriction. I cannot tell you the last time I washed my car or watered my lawn. Sadly I think the worst is yet to come.. Love this post!

    • I have read of restrictions the country over. So sad it has come to this. Where I am is located near Lake Ontario and water is everywhere, yet I still feel deeply for those not as fortunate. Funny thing, here people only see the drought as no rain, not drying lakes and streams.

      • Well it is quite possible that we will suffer for it come winter and spring next year in the way of slightly higher prices at grocery stores but who knows. It is quite possible that only poultry and beef prices could be effected by an increase of 3 to 5% at the stores next year but then counting on average inflation on food being 2-3% most of us may not feel the pain.

        I guess the ones that are most directly affected would be the poor animals especially if lakes and streams are drying up. Interestingly enough If we continue to have more droughts over the years maybe it would be time to classify an area as having a new climate? 9 of our last 10 years are supposedly the hottest on record makes you say hmmpphhh

        Sorry for rambling a little there but your post really intrigued me and makes you start questioning things…..

  17. bumblelush says:

    Thanks for this informative post. It’s worrying and troubling about drought conditions in this country, and blogging with gardeners all over the country really makes me more aware of what a problem it is. But I wasn’t aware of other problems, like seawater compromising reserves. Thanks again for sharing this info and for your beautiful pictures.

    • In blogging it seems so garden centric, but is a problem far beyond each of our private spaces. So many are expressing concern, but more on the smaller scale of what is right at home. Sure each ‘garden’ adds up in the bigger picture. I care less about my garden per say, than those creatures that visit it. If things were not so bad in fields and pastures, I would just let my garden go dormant. It is just not that important.

  18. Donna, I am nominating you for the One Lovely Blog award! I have followed your blog for years and feel it is wonderful and LOVELY so Congratulations-I am passing the award along to you! The rules to accepting this wonderful award are on my site at If you feel you cannot comply with the rules of the award please accept this nomination in the sincere spirit in which it is offered.
    Best, Lee

    • Thank you very much, I feel very honored. I have not participated in blog awards due to time constraints, but I appreciate your kind words and thoughts very much. Congrats on your blog receiving the award.

  19. b-a-g says:

    Hi Donna – Brilliant and worrying post. I’m fascinated by hummingbirds because I’ve never seen one. How close do they let you approach when they’re feedling ?

    • Not very close in my yard, but when I was in Costa Rica, they would hover inches from my camera. I was sitting in the garden two days ago waiting for them to come, and was about three meters away. They keep a schedule, so I am pretty good knowing when they show up.

  20. HolleyGarden says:

    Your photos are amazing. As I read through the comments, I realized – we have been trying very hard to reduce our electricity usage. We are quite aware now of anything that’s using electricity, and whether we actually need it or not. Perhaps we should change that focus to water usage.

  21. No need to change focus. But water usage really does need more people conserving. This was my first year watering. I have seen too many crops drying and realized my lowly garden plants are actually helping the birds and bees. I came home from Maine and saw the Viburnum berries all dried on the shrub and thought how many birds missed a meal at my garden. Usually, the shrub is picked clean in a few days. The berries did not get ripe enough for the birds to take them.

  22. Such a useful and scary post. The two areas where I live and garden are two of the only places where there is no drought and yet they seem hot and dry. Maine got a full 24 plus hours of gentle rain yesterday and we rejoiced. Could you write a post telling us the 5 to 10 most important things to do to save water?

    • I could write a post because I do many things to conserve. Step number one may sound harsh, but it would be, Give a Damn. Too many don’t really care or do so in words only. Things I do that others may not for instance:
      I catch running water while waiting for it to warm or get cold. I take it right out into the garden or use it for house plants. I have a basin that is a receptacle. I never hose the driveway, I sweep. I am very mindful of washing clothes. I make sure the size of the laundry suits the amount of water. And living with a plumber, I am always pestering when something leaks. You lose many gallons a day when a facet drips all day because a washer needs replacing. And you know this one Carolyn. I use one glass all day to keep the number down filling up the dishwasher. And of course, all the stuff many do like reusing cooking water, and I may use it for soup stock. Or cool it and it goes to the garden. I take baths rather than showers which also conserves by limiting how much you fill the tub. Just simple stuff, but it helps.

  23. Amazing macro photography. I have been experimenting with my Canon EOS 600D with macro lens and Tamron macro lens but am still a novice. Your photos are so sharp, well-captured and incredibly close-up. Thank you for posting with lens captions – I’ll be using this post as a reference next time to go shooting! 🙂

  24. Indie says:

    Beautiful photos!
    It does boggle my mind when we’re in a drought and I see sprinklers going off on a timer in the middle of the day. I’m sure there is something all of us can do, though to limit our water more. Thankfully things aren’t as bad here in North Carolina – we’ve been getting quite a few crazy storms lately. I can’t imagine being a farmer in the middle of all this heat and drought.

    • I have pictured timed sprinklers in Canada on during a rain storm. It amazes me too watching them going back and forth in the rain. Lucky you have been having storms. We have had two also, but they were pretty violent. I am not sure that is so good for the gardens.

  25. jakesprinter says:

    Excellent work truly great contribution for entire blogosphere my friend, Thanks for sharing 🙂

  26. Great post! We have been in drought like conditions for several years here in Georgia. Surprisingly, when I visited the Michigan this summer their conditions looked even worse. Many farmers had lost their summer crops due to lack of rain. However, I did notice that milkweed was growing in abundance so that is good news for the monarchs. When we were under extreme drought two years ago we started capturing water from the shower to water plants in the garden. We continue to practice this. Thanks for sharing your camera settings for your photos!

    • Milkweed is growing well here too. Some fields are left fallow and the native weeds are growing until they can be plowed under. It is good to capture water rather than let it go down the drain. A little soap is not going to hurt the garden plants. I use tub water too sometimes. Not always though because I only fill the tub five inches. That does not make it too easy to retrieve.

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