Bee Watching

This is a double long weekend — Friday, July 1 was Canada Day and Monday is the Fourth of July. After a rather cold spring, it finally feels something like summer here on the west coast. Conditions are therefore in place for one of the best ways to savour a summer day — watching bees.

The garden probably contains more bee-attracting blooms right now than at any other time of year — foxgloves, peach-leaf bellflower, campion, toadflax, lavender, hardy geraniums, mulleins and more. Not to mention shrubs like cotoneaster and privet, whose small flowers may escape human attention with so many flashier ones around (roses, for example), but which are of great interest to bees, and are quite numerous besides.

You can’t go wrong spending part of a warm July morning watching bees doing their thing among abundant flowers. One thing that becomes immediately apparent is how many different kinds of bee-like insects there are, everything from what look like tiny wasps to honeybees to bumblebees of varying sizes, to real wasps and hornets and some creatures that look like a cross between wasps and giant ants. I have to admit that I haven’t as yet been motivated to learn what all these bees and others are, but noticing their variety is an experience in itself.

Bee on Lavender

Among the bumblebees there is an amazing variety of colours and patterns, different arrangements of black, yellow, white and orange. Some bees have prominent pollen sacks, others don’t. A single flower may be visited by a number of bees, while others are ignored. Watching all these happenings is interesting enough to engage the brain but requires no effort or decision on the watcher’s part and is therefore not in the least taxing.

Photographing bees, on the other hand, is not at all easy. By the time you focus and are ready to shoot, the bee is gone or has moved around to the other side of the flower. Or you notice a bee hovering around the delphiniums, for example. Remembering that the centre parts of delphinium flowers are called “bees,” you think What a great picture! and race for the camera. When you get back, the bee has departed and does not return.

I did manage to take this picture, however, and have now decided to end my experiments in bee photography. Bee watching is too rewarding an activity to spoil with the anxieties of capturing the experience for posterity.

Bee on Delphinium