"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626


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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Joe’s Bees

Yesterday we had the pleasure of a brief visit with Joe who is a local beekeeper and who runs Dansk Farms here in Orlando. For the last few weeks I have been doing some background research into honey bees and wanted a bee to draw. I returned with 9 honey bees and one beautiful irridescent orchid bee which Joe had found for me, all carefully packed for the short trip in their own neat little crate. It’s actually a queen bee transporter, roomy enough for a diminutive royal and normally well equipped with candy. My little bees were not, I hasten to add, alive.


I had met Joe a couple of weeks ago at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market, where he sells not only the 100% pure honey, but bees wax, and lovely honey based bath and body products.
It was completely fascinating to see the workings of one of the hives which at 9.00 am was busy. Joe’s particular bees are gentle and goodnatured, a cross between Buckfasts and Carniolans and so a mixture of dark and lighter coloured bees. Their joint characteristics make them good all round bees, docile, disease resistant, good producers and good housekeepers. (The story of Brother Adam and the Buckfast bee needs another dedicated post). There is so much to know and admire about bees and I am just at the beginning.

joes hives

frame 1

I had not realised that the honey bee was not a native species in the USA. The bees that Joe keeps, as with most of honey bees in the USA, are descended from the European Honey bee, Apis Mellifera. Bees were probably introduced into Florida by the Spanish but the first documented arrival of bees from Europe is from a letter dated December 5, 1621 by the Council of the Virginia Company in London and addressed to the Governor and Council in Virginia. It was a motley cargo.

Wee haue by this Shipp and the Discouerie sent you diurs [divers] sortes of seedes, and fruit trees, as also Pidgeons, Connies, Peacockes Maistiues [Mastiffs], and Beehives, as you shall by the invoice pceiue [perceive]; the preservation & encrease whereof we respond vnto you…” (Goodwin 1956; Kingsbury 1906:532). The Discovery (60 tons, Thomas Jones, captain, and twenty persons) left England November 1621 and arrived in Virginia March 1622.

from “Honey Bees Across America” By Brenda Kellar

And the name ..

The genus Apis is Latin for "bee", and mellifera comes from Latin melli- "honey" and ferre "to bear" — hence the scientific name means "honey-bearing bee". The name was coined in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus who, realizing that the bees do not bear honey, but nectar, tried later to correct it to Apis mellifica ("honey-making bee") in a subsequent publication. However, according to the rules of synonymy in zoological nomenclature, the older name has precedence. Wikipedia

I have never looked in such detail at a honey bee before. These little bees are a variety of colours and delightfully hairy, even the eyes are hairy. I am sad they are dead but the practicalities of trying to draw live bees in such detail would try the patience of even Joe’s docile bees. I am hoping to make a good detailed painting but before I do I need to understand a bit more about their anatomy. For now, some studies.

My models and sketchpad.

bee sketchessms

sketch blog



lyrebird said...

your blog is astonishing. how on earth do you have time to do anything else? i am looking forward to finding time to read it all. i love the discipline of daily drawing. well done!
best wishes,

Karen said...

Wow, that's quite a project, and thanks for the bee history! Never knew they weren't native. What about bumblebees? Now I need to go find out more. Love your drawing, and I can only imagine how difficult it would be to draw a live bee. Eek! Do you ever look at Jean Bradbury (fellow artist)'s blog, A Pill Bug's Point of View? She did a bee painting from a bumble she found dead in her garden not long ago. Love that you both had the urge to do the same thing this summer, see more of our friend the bee and learn about how it is put together.

sharp green pencil said...

Thanks to you both ..
Hi there Lyrebird, I really dont deserve praise for daily drawing this last few months, I have been a slacker, but lots of behind the scenes design work going on.. which in the fullness of time may make it onto the blog.
Karen, I havent forgotten your parking strip plant drawing..!(it may have to be a bee now) They are a lazy bunch here in Orlando. No parking strip gardens to be found anywhere. Thanks for the tip re Jeans's blog, what great work.. makes me want to get the oils out again!..Oh dear so much to do, so little time. The bee thing is going to be a bit constant for the next few months.. but hey, they are so fascinating.

David The Good said...

These images are lovely. This is my first year as a beekeeper - you make me want to get out and do some drawing or painting of the hard-working gals.

sharp green pencil said...

Oh so glad you keeping bees David .. we all should have a little box somewhere even for a few solitary ones.. they are so very rewarding!