I was shooting the iris–great stuff–but the angry buzzing in the rhodies behind me was finally too distracting.

Apparently wet rhododendron blossoms don’t lend themselves to easy nectar gathering. As I watched, bumblebees tumbled out of blossoms, righted themselves and headed back for more. They slid down the soggy petals, scrabbled for footholds, got stuck and buzzed themselves out.

I trained my camera on one patch of blossoms where the buzzing was especially frustrated. Sure enough, a bee was stuck between two flowers, trying to push his way into the clear. As he emerged, I took my first shot.

The goal, apparently, was to reach the base of the stamens just above, but the flowers were slippery and past vertical. The bee would manage to climb about halfway up…

…and then fall back

I watched that bee, struggling to reach the top, for about 15 minutes. At times he (or maybe she) would fall back and just lie there, battered and soggy with petal water. I don’t suppose bees pant, but that one sure seemed to. Each time, though, he’d gather himself and make the same run again…only to slip back to the bottom.

Finally, he chose a different route, up and around from behind the stamens, and carefully, painfully picked his way. I held my breath as he inched–or maybe millimetered–up that sheer petal wall.


For awhile, he just dug in and guzzled. Then his entire body relaxed, and he laid on the stamens with his nose in the nectar, spent.

He stayed up there perhaps five minutes–which if you look at the lifespan of a bee is quite a restbreak–and then slipped out to visit the next flower.

I guess, overall, it was a pretty small thing. But I can’t help thinking that this much determination in a human would be pretty bloody unstoppable.