Backyard Orchard News
Bees engage us. They fascinate, charm and inspire us.
Last Sunday morning, as the temperature climbed from 40 to 50 degrees, the honey bees joined us in our garden. They buzzed in and out of the autumn blossoms, gathering pollen and nectar. I stood motionless, capturing their whir of wings with a macro lens, searching for a way to tell their story.
Like many other artists involved with photography, I see the world through a viewfinder. Still other artists draw, etch, paint and sculpt them or use other mediums such as mezzotint engravings, wax pastels and woodcuts.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty (today he's keynoting the California State Beekeepers’ Association conference in San Diego), called our attention to a newly launched Web site known as “The World’s First Art Gallery Devoted to Bees.”
It’s “Bees in Art,” the work of curators/artists Andrew Tyzack and Debbie Grice of East Yorkshire, UK. More specifically, it’s art inspired by bees.
The husband-wife team, graduates of the Royal College of Art, exhibit artwork by leading artists who, like themselves, are fascinated and inspired by beekeeping, bees and Hymenoptera.
“Beekeeping and bees are an immensely important part of our ecosystem,” says Andrew, a third-generation beekeeper and founder of Bees in Art.
The curators not only celebrate bees, but draw attention to the plight of the pollinators. They exhibit and sell important artworks by contemporary artists, such as Robert Gillmor and David Koster as well as works by past masters, including Graham Sutherland (1903-1980).
Andrew Tyzack, who keeps several bee hives, remembers working with bees in his childhood. He recalls the time he and his grandfather captured a wild colony of bees established in the wall of a wooden hut. "In the smoky gloom, Granddad gently took away the inner wall and there were the bees populating beeswax combs," he recalled. "Because the hut was gloomy and Granddad was gentle, the bees just carried on with their lives. We weren't wearing any protective clothing at all, but I felt safe. Their doorway was where a knot had fallen out of a plank, but once we had captured the queen, the colony was ours."
Andrew traces his early inspiration of bees “from a boyhood curiosity for all things natural" to the artists, writers, poets and dancers he's met along life's way. Among them: sculptor Andy Goldsworthy and poet Liz Lochhead.
Wife Debbie, co-founder of Bees in Art, is an award-winning artist and "the beekeeper’s wife,” jarring his honey with creative labels. Winner of the Folio Society Illustration Award 1998, she produces mezzotint engravings of apiaries.
Honey bees (queen bees, drones, worker bees), bumble bees and other bees populate the Web site in various art forms.
It’s nice to see a Web site solely devoted to bee art, and it’s particularly gratifying--and significant--that the founder of Bees in Art is himself a beekeeper and artist.
And inspired by bees and beekeeping.
Andrew Tyzack and His Hives
What's wrong with this photo?
A honey bee is nectaring a lavender, right?
But if you look closely, you'll see a Varroa mite--a parasite--attached to her.
Varroa mites, considered the No. 1 pest in the honey bee industry, are linked to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind food stores and the brood.
Varroa mites are so common that it's rare to find a hive without them.
Female mites reproduce inside brood cells in the hive. Mites suck the bee blood or hemolymph; in doing so, they spread viruses, stunt the growth and cause deformities.
Within two years, they can destroy a colony.
Not a pleasant sight.
Mite on bee
A recent visit to the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden found honey bees making a...yes...beeline...for the pink oxalis (Oxalis herta), a native of South Africa.
Some folks consider oxalis, especially yellow oxalis, a "weed." Indeed, "oxalis management" is a key topic at park conferences, at garden club meetings and over backyard fences.
Now a weed is simply an unwanted plant in a particular place. It may be a "nuisance" because it crowds out desirable plants, steals the limited soil nutrients, spreads diseases, or doesn't meet someone's strict aesthetic requirements or expectations.
To a honey bee, however, there's no distinction. Oxalis, aka wood sorrel, beckons them, unfolding an aromatic welcome mat, and the bees buzz in.
End product: food for the hive, and a sweetener for us humans.
The honey bees are hungry.
There are fewer flowers blooming this time of the year, so the bees are foraging for what they can.
This morning the bees were all over the lavender (Lavandula) in our yard. One bee, packing red pollen (probably from rock purslane), glided in, strapped herself to the lavender, and sipped the nectar from a floral "cup."
The bees are a little testy this time of the year. They're foraging for their winter stores as the days grow colder and shorter and the floral supply fades. "Honey bees don't forage when it is cool, below around 50 degrees," says bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk of the University of California, Davis.
To help support the declining bee population, it's crucial to offer the bees a year-around food supply, and that's exactly what the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the UC Davis, will do. A public open house is scheduled June 19.
Meanwhile, it was Red Letter Day today as the pollen-packing bee made her rounds.
Packing Red Pollen
Red Tongue, Red Pollen
That's the title of a new display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
It's quite timely and appropriate because of the beleaguered bees.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, has a keen interest in bees, and not just because she's an entomologist and a former beekeeper. She's instrumental in the administrative aspects of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Reseach Facility, including the newly planted Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden. Plans call for a public open house June 19.
And if you ever want to check out the wide variety of bee specimens (from honey bees to carpenter bees to sweat bees to blue orchard bees, et al), be sure to visit the Bohart. Bees are among the seven million insect specimens housed there.
The Pollination Nation display emphasizes the importance of bees. "Approximately three quarters of all flowering plants rely on animals, mostly insects, for pollination," the display reads. "Wild insect pollinators include bumble bees, flies, solitary bees, butterflies, ants, beetles and wasps.”
“Farmers rely heavily upon the managed colonies of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) to pollinate crops. Not only do honey bees help produce our food but they also provide us honey and wax. Recently honey bee colonies have been dying off and their numbers are declining. Disease and mites may be the root of the problem, but insecticides and habitat loss also pose serious threats.”
Researchers at UC Davis, Kimsey explained, are trying to "understand and solve the problems of declining pollinators, both native and domesticated, by studying their taxonomy, ecology, life history traits, diseases and behaviors."
The Bohart Museum, located in 1124 Academic Surge, was founded in 1946 by the late Richard M. Bohart, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Dedicated to teaching, research and service, the insect museum houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
The museum also includes live insects such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and walking leaves. “That’s our petting zoo,” Kimsey quipped. (Yes, you can hold them.)
More information about the Bohart, visiting hours, and guided tours is available from public outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang at (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com.