To Bee or not to Bee

Vicky Page

Vicky Page finds herself spellbound by bees as she embarks on her annual mission to photograph them…

Much as many of our priorities have changed over the last few weeks, some have remained the same. Around this time of year I often find myself chasing bees around the flowers with a camera, staking out the wildflower patch at the bottom of the garden, my ears pricking the moment I hear a familiar buzz, being sniggered at by the rest of the family for my outlandish behaviour. I’m not even very good at identifying bees – I just love the furry little creatures. This year, however, has provided the opportunity to really go to, erm, not to town of course… let’s just say I’ve been more bee-attentive than usual.

I found myself getting increasingly frustrated at my inability to capture a single crisp image of the suspected female hairy footed flower bee (what a name!) that has been busily servicing my cowslips on sunny afternoons, despite an entire week of days off work in which to really put some effort into it. She’s a flighty little thing, with a shiny black abdomen, tongue perpetually sticking out ready for the next flower, brightly bulging pollen baskets, and emitting a dainty buzz that I’ve learnt to recognise immediately. But she alights for barely a second at a time, and definitely not for long enough for me to focus my aged macro lens, so I’ve resorted to following her with my phone. A few blurry images and the odd piece of shaky footage are all that I’ve achieved.

Hairy footed flower bee Vicky Page

Vicky Page

Imagine my joy, then, to find myself face to face with with a sedate, diligent and altogether much slower bee on some milkmaids/lady’s smock/cuckoo flower (how many names does a plant need?!) in a nearby meadow. Enter stage left the female ashy mining bee – not only was she being very conscientious in her attention to the flowers, but she was clearly having a bit of a sugar crash as she leant from flower to flower, waving her front legs in an attempt to catch the edge of the next petal, evidently avoiding taking flight at all costs. I’m assuming that this little bee is just less manic in her endeavours, but what a beauty she is – like a star from the silver screen in her monochrome furs, she buried her face in every floret with relish, emerging dusted with pollen and looking somewhat dishevelled as a result. The Mae West of the Hymenoptera. I found myself wondering if it’s annoying to have pollen all over your eyes when you can’t blink it away.

Having finally captured some images pleasing to the eye, I find my enthusiasm for wild bees reinvigorated, and refuse to be outdone by any single black bottomed bee no matter how busy she may be. I’ve got my eye on the little ones sporting fox fur stoles which are currently enjoying our surfeit of alkanet by the front door (we have to run the gauntlet of bees to exit the house, which doesn’t happen often at the moment and I secretly quite like the overgrown front step). I’ll be keeping watch whilst weeding, with a camera nearby for comfort.

And now I find myself browsing expensive macro lenses and wondering how long it’ll take to save up in missed mochas from Badgers Tea Room… wish me the strength to resist! 

Ashy mining bee 2 Vicky Page

Vicky Page