To Bee or Not to Bee

posted in: Karolina.art, Photography | 0

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”

Marc Riboud

The reason I dived into macro is because whilst my soul is bursting with an endless need to be creative and capture the world around us, I don’t have a car and therefore can’t get very far. I often had to find an inspiration literally under my nose. And wow, are the native (wild) bees an impressive subject – and they are so, so important.

Music helps me think – maybe you’ll like to listen to this playlist while you read this blog post, too.

Where do I start with this post… Perhaps an update on my fractured leg? To those of you kind enough to be interested – considering I turned 45, it’s healing very well. I am able to walk again at last, and counting my every blessing!… It’s been a long two months where I realised how little help I have in my somewhat isolated life in rural Devon, but all the more I am proud of how we managed to get through this tough and challenging time. I am looking forward to the better days ahead and I’ve already caught up with some of the jobs around the house and the gardens I help run.

Life is complex, and full of surprises – not always good ones, however, tackling difficult days makes the good ones all the nicer to experience. Breaking my ankle was a good lesson of never underestimating how one’s situation can change, literally in a blink of an eye. Walking and photographing is my life. It is in my DNA and keeps my soul happy and my mind relaxed. It’s a little something I can do around my many other commitments. Through macro photography nature taught me so much – about the relationships, connection, all encapsulated like in a small Petry dish of life itself. Entomology made me realise that all the nature around us, all life is intertwined with these tiny living beings we almost always overlook, because they are no bigger than a grape, or a seed, or even just a spec of dirt. Who would think caring about the insects is a thing – as they are so tiny and to many, even “annoying”? Well, I do, and I got to meet some pretty amazing people who are, too. I’ve been speaking to the BBC Radio station about the Daddy-Long-Legs last year, oh that was funny (maybe I will upload that conversation here). I’ve met John Walters, who like me is an artist, photographer/videographer and an entomology enthusiast – and he is working alongside Sir David Attenborough himself. I feel extremely inspired by these incredible, yet humble and kind, people. I truly look up to them.

It’s been particularly on my wish list of the past two summers to find and photograph a male Osmia Caerulescens (Blue Mason bee), he (stunner) is definitely living in our area and possibly even at our allotment (I had some very hopeful glimpses of a “copper bee”), and the Anthophora Bimaculata – Green eyed flower bee, found in south coast of Cornwall and most southern areas of Devon. However, due to my sudden injury I missed the window of opportunity of 2024. Hey ho – as long as there is life, there is always the next year, right? Meanwhile, our Red Mason Bees are doing great and we have enough tubes for the next year’s season and meanwhile, I still have thousands (this is no exaggeration) of images to process, aiming to upload my online archive (2020 – 2024).

I am glad that over the past three years I “ticked” some of the bee species off the plates of Steven Falk’s “Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland” (the very best book on UK bees I highly recommend). If you ever wondered… training an eye to recognise the way they fly and behave is quite a challenge, but it is also SO much fun. It fills one with a thrill. Bees live in a different time space, I believe this – while we blink, they manage to do five things and buzz off!

Start with honeybees and bumblebees, get closer and watch. As with any animal, when treated with respect, they are not a danger to us at all. Reading the body language, listening to the way they buzz, it’s all a clue to their mood. Bumblebee lift their middle legs as a warning “back off” (see if you spot this behaviour in the gallery at the bottom here). This honeybee girl (below) rested peacefully on my hand on a rainy, colder summer day and I happened to have my Canon on me, so our moment of friendship was immortalised in a rather lovely photo.

At the time, I was hired to paint a huge portrait of Apis Mellifera’s heart-shaped head, for educational display of evolution of a honeybee in its cell which is on a permanent exhibit at the local Quince Honeyfarm. Every encounter with a really friendly bee was enormously valuable to me, – it was so much better than sticking a dead specimen under the microscope, although I have done that a lot, too…

I’ve picked so many bugs and bees and even wasps and spiders, and placed them from a trapped location to freedom and safety. I’d like to think that these little acts of love and care matter. If you think that the bees are scary – I too used to be scared of anything that buzzes, too! With education and knowledge, that fear melts away and you can explore and adore these little “friends”. It is lovely to see the interest in the solitary bees growing, lately. To save the bees doesn’t mean to buy a jar of honey (honeybees as species are not on decline, in fact wild bees suffer because of the honeybee dominance worldwide)! Saving bees means we think about our environment, saw pollinator friendly plants and provide a space for them to live and nest in. By doing what’s right, you get to enjoy them visiting your space and observe what they’ve been doing for centuries – the unique relationship between a flower and a pollinator is truly magical. All the transformations, life cycles that overlap at the precisely right moment in time to enable a new generation of vegetation, and of the insects.

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