Bee in a white trumpet-shaped flower
Nature and wildlife,  Nature Photo Challenge,  Themed galleries

Gallery: the busyness of bees

His labour is a chant,

His idleness a tune;

Oh, for a bee’s experience

Of clovers and of noon!

From The Bee, by Emily Dickinson

I wonder how many hours I have spent in total, my camera at the ready, hovering over a flower as a bee does and waiting to be able to capture said bee in a half-decent shot? More times than not I fail, but whenever I succeed I get a thrill. Or, dare I say, a buzz?!

It seems that in recent years we are starting to appreciate bees as we should, probably as a result of their potential decline.

If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live

Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee

I’m no expert and haven’t fact-checked the above, but I do know that we need bees and other insects to survive. According to Greenpeace:

If bees disappear, we’d have big problems producing enough food. So it’s worrying that, like many other insects, bee numbers are plummeting. A third of UK bees have disappeared in the last 10 years and a quarter of European species are at risk of extinction. Bee losses are particularly concerning because they are more efficient pollinators than other animals. Studies have shown bee-pollinated foods can be bigger and healthier.

The most significant threat to bees and other insects is the loss of their natural habitat. Bees and other pollinators rely on wildflower meadows for food and shelter, but since 1945 the UK has lost a staggering 97% of these areas. Intensive farming has removed many of these meadows, along with other wildlife-friendly features such as hedgerows, water meadows and ponds. Expanding urban development has also paved over large areas, leaving nothing left for bees and other insects.

Source: Greenpeace UK

So let’s celebrate and promote our bees whenever we can! Most of my photos below are from the UK but I’ve also found a couple of bees from my travels. You’ll have seen some of them in previous posts but you can never have too many bees so I think they bear repeating!

Note on identification

One thing I enjoy about Denzil’s Nature Photography challenges is that they often prompt me to attempt more identification than I might otherwise do. In this case I’ve spent a bit of time online looking at bee ID pages covering not only the UK but also the western US. I confess I struggled however, so many of the captions below are guesses!

Small bee on a white flower

Honeybee on begonia, Ealing, summer 2020

Bee on white blossom

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (or possibly White-tailed) on blossom, Ealing, summer 2021

Pink blossom with a bee

Bee on apple blossom, Ealing, spring 2021 (I think either a Honeybee or Leaf Cutter Bee)

Pale pink trumpet flower and bee dusted with pollen

Pollen-dusted bee in hollyhock, Ealing, summer 2022

Bee on pale mauve flowers

Bee on rhododendron, Black Park, summer 2020 (quite possibly a Buff-tailed Bumblebee)

Deep pink flowers with bee hovering above

Buff-tailed Bumblebee just leaving a dog rose, Shropshire, summer 2021

Bee on lacy white flower sprays

Bee on cow parsley, Norfolk, summer 2022 (I think a Buff-tailed Bumblebee)

My feature photo was taken on the same day in the same nature reserve, and the Cambridgeshire ones below just a few miles away. Clearly these reserves are doing their bit to help our bees thrive.

Bee on a spray of small white flowers

Buff-tailed Bumblebee on white buddleia, Cambrideshire, summer 2022

Bee on spiky green flowers

Buff-tailed or possibly White-tailed Bumblebee on burdock, Cambridgeshire, summer 2022

Bee on a spike of lavender flowers

Bee on lavender, San Juan Island WA, summer 2017 (a Google search suggests it’s probably a Vosnesensky Bumblebee)

According to my research, these bees are very common, and possibly increasing in abundance; they are exclusive to coastal California, Oregon and Washington

Bee on pale cream flowers

Honeybee in a honey shop in Misfat, a small village in Oman, February 2019


Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!