Bees fall prey to a number of diseases. Mites, like the varroa, can infest a colony, feed off the growing pupae, inhibit normal development, and transmit viruses that cause deformities. If the infestation is severe enough, eventually, it can lead to the destruction of the colony. Does the use of agricultural pesticides weaken the bees’ immune system, leaving the bees less able to handle infestations? Do certain bee-keeping practices add to the problem?
The image here has two different mites: the varroa and the tropilaelaps.
In these past days, I’ve been working on expanding the bee drawing that has the ancient bee goddess as queen bee. In this tiny swarm of black flower-like shapes, there are just over 1,000 bees, drawn on 7 overhapping sheets of translucent silk tissue. (The image is approximately 6′ tall). 1,000 bees done, another 34,000 to go to make a real swarm.
I’m captivated by the idea that during summer time, there can be between 30,000-50,000 honey bees in a colony. What an amazingly complex and well-organized community.
Representing these vast numbers without being too literal is proving to be a daunting task, but I have come up with a few tentative ideas.
Here’s the start of the first one. The queen bee here is based upon two ancient bee goddesses from Knossos, and her swarming workers are 6-petaled black flower-like shapes. The drawings are done in bees’ wax and pigment, using a drawing stylus borrowed from the traditional Ukrainian egg-painting technique. 200 little flower-like-bees, and only 29,800 more to go!
Since the weather has turned into full summer, I’ve been paying attention to the number of bees and bumblebees visiting my garden. Not that many bees, but definitely more bumblebees than honey bees. I’ve seen several documentaries on the plight of pollinators world-wide, so I started researching various sites on the internet that deal with bee-keeping and the study of bees. I’m interested in colony collapse disorder and the complex reasons that are contributing to the demise of our bee populations. It is astounding to think that at the height of summer, there can be between 35,000-50,000 bees in just one colony. Thus the devastation of just one colony means an incredible number of losses.
I started drawing dead bees, using an encaustic paint made with bees’ wax and pigment, and enjoyed drawing 3 or 4 of these compositions. I liked the fact that the wax made the bees stand out in a slight relief, and I liked the fact that I was using bees’ wax to draw the bees, but I needed to find another way of representing the bees, that would address the both the vast numbers of bees in a colony and some of the factors contributing to the demise of the bee populations.
I am familiar with the work of a number of artists whose practice includes the study of bees, most notably Aganetha Dyck and Elizabeth MacKenzie. Both artists’ work focuses on bees that are active and alive.