Category Archives: Amazing pictures

Killer Bees of Arizona

Killer bees are Africanized honey bees. They are called killer bees because of their aggression toward people or animals who approach their territory.

African bees were brought to Brazil in the 1950s by scientists trying to develop a honey bee that would adapt to tropical climates. Some of the bees escaped and bred with local bees, multiplied, and migrated through South and Central America.

Africanized honey bees, known as killer bees, were first seen in the US in 1990 in Texas, and soon spread to the southwestern US and California. They are all over Arizona and can be very dangerous. They are easily provoked and will attack in great numbers from a long distance, sensing the presence of carbon dioxide expelled by mammals. They can also respond to noises, scents, and vibrations by swarming and attacking. If you jump into water, such as a pool, the bees will wait for you to surface and continue to attack. Their venom is no stronger than a honey bee, and they can each sting only once, the female dying after stinging.

One must be vigilant of straying into their territory when doing yardwork, and they like to form hives in attics or vents of houses. Because bees are very important insects, we should not try to destroy them, but seek the help of a professional. In Bisbee, we have such an expert, The Killer Bee Guy. He’s rather famous and has demonstrated his technique for removal on several televsion shows. He has a shop where he sells products he makes from the honey of the bees he has removed, not exterminated. Sometimes in an inconvenient or urgent situation, he has to sacrifice the bees, but he generally safely removes them. He puts the bees to work and makes everything from honey butter to lip balm.

Yesterday at my friend Janice’s house in rural Hereford, AZ, we noticed a huge swarm of thousands of killer bees near a peach tree. We grabbed the dogs and got them inside. The bees formed into a writhing mass on the side of the tree, we believe it was to protect their queen. Of course we were extremely careful not to disturb them—we barely breathed and used the zoom.

Mass of Africanized honey bees (killer bees) on side of a peach tree.

Mass of Africanized honey bees (killer bees) on peach tree. A few bees buzz around the mass as guards. This entire mass is constantly moving and shifting. It's quite something to behold.

Mass of Africanized honey bees on peach tree. They form a mass in the heat of the day in a shady spot to protect their queen. This group of bees are looking for a place to build their hive.

Carnivorous Locusts of Arizona

Today I saw this huge locust dragging something across the Shell station parking lot—it was the carcass of a grasshopper! He pulled it along, found a nice sunny spot, and tore into it. Usually locusts just eat your trees or grass or crops—first time I’ve ever seen one with flesh hanging out of its mouth. They make some meanass bugs in Arizona!

Hey grasshoppers are a delicacy ya know!


Two Swallowtails Buzzed on Valerian

The butterflies are out in force—again, I think it’s about all the rain we’ve had creating an insect, bird, and animal-friendly environment.  These two black swallowtails are fused in a pose I think I’ve seen in the Kama Sutra. The male and female are slightly different, with the male obviously being more colorful, as in many species.  They were in a world of their own, barely cognizant of how close the camera was.  Oh I only have eyes for you…don’t you love catching nature in flagrante delicto? Click on photos for closer, more inquiring views.

Black swallowtails in graceful lust

Swallowtail love lock

The female appeared to be either dominant or maybe she was displaying her "I have to do everything" drama. She seemed to be pulling him about, her wings beating much more than his.

Back to back

The Week in My World 9/4/10

Not a bad week, can’t complain (but I still do). I have dictionary work and housecleaning. Life is good. I savor the glow of having work, and never take it for granted because it can and does all change in an instant.

It’s still summer here for another month or so, which is a glorious thing about Arizona, long springs, long summers, long autumns…short winters.


Empty cactus wren nest in a cholla (pronounced choy-a) near my house



Giant caterpillar. Or something.



Locust on a pail in yard



Two beetles gettin' busy



Cute grasshopper insectivorous bird can do well here



Mesquite tree pods



View overlooking a swath of Tombstone Canyon, Bisbee



A friend's fence, Old Bisbee


That Wraps Up the Nests

Hummingbird nest with two eggs in mulberry tree

Baby season is over for the local birds. I have a big window in my office so I feel privileged to be able to observe the mating, nest building, egg laying, and nursery care for several species. Two sets of swallows have fledged from the porch light, and two sets of hummingbirds from the mulberry trees in the yard. It’s a team effort between the mother and father—I like to think I’m in on it but I’m sure they’re helping me more than I’m helping them.

The hummingbirds build their nest on the flimsiest of branches during the height of monsoon storms—it never looks like they’re going to make it. We call the babies “riders on the storm” and they do get tossed around. But the parents choose their site with a purpose, the bigger birds would have a hard time landing in there on a tiny branch. I went out there and threw pebbles at a pair of cactus wrens a couple times. Cactus wrens are common in the desert but this is the first time I’ve ever seen them in the yard—I was all excited until I realized they were harassing the hummer nest and the little mother was going at them with all she had. Such is nature. All’s well with the hummer babies,  but there were a few fatalities with the second swallow brood. I hate the death part, but only the strong are going to survive and carry on.

Baby hummingbirds just hatched

Baby hummingbirds one week old

Getting bigger

Growing up fast

Ready to fledge!

The Week in My World 8-27-10

The 2010 monsoon season will be tapering off soon, though no one wants to see it end. The storms have been occurring almost daily, replenishing water tables and turning the high desert into a lush, green, nurturing world. We have been fortunate.


Daily thunderstorms with heavy rain



Rain and rainbow, backyard



Magical sunset after storm



Arizona the drama queen



The dogs love a nice salad



The yard after finally being mown



Full moon rising after stormy day



Second brood of swallow babies on porch light



Hummingbird in her nest at house in Bisbee



View from house where I worked today overlooking Tombstone Canyon



A length of ocotillo fence along Tombstone Canyon this afternoon



A living ocotillo fence is a wonder to behold, especially after the rains


Arizona is Such a Drama Queen

These are pictures of the vast and beautiful skies of Arizona during monsoon season, all taken from our yard. Arizona is such a show-off!

Monsoon clouds to the south

Monsoon clouds to the north

Monsoon sky, backyard

Beautiful clouds to the northeast

Surreal lighting in the backyard

Early rainbow, June 2010

Sunset from the driveway