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


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Thursday, 20 May 2010

My last Bee, the Dark Honey Bee “…as sweet as tupelo honey, Just like honey from the bee” ...

Did you think I had forgotten the Honey bee. How could I. :)

That’s where this whole bee thing started,  on a trip home just a year ago, when I found our old beehives, which made me look up my local beekeeper Joe, who gave me some bees. I made this painting, Number Two Bee  I put it on the blog, Deborah saw it. I painted 16 bees for her, and then the exhibition came along..  and here I am, a year on about to leave for the UK again this time with my 24 bees.

The Hardy English Dark honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera

For my honey bee I decided to paint the old English Dark  Honey Bee the original British bee that colonised northern Europe after the Ice Age. Compared with other honey bees they are thought to be more aggressive  but have thicker coats and are more robust, making it easier for them to withstand  bad weather and cold winters and there are moves afoot to make this beautiful little bee more popular again.


Dark honey bees from  SICAMM an international union of beekeepers, regional and national associations,etc who support the  conservation of this threatened subspecies. see more here

In 1917,  Roots famous “ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture” had this to say:

(They) are much more nervous: and when a hive of them is opened they run like a flock of sheep from one corner of the hive to another, boiling over in confusion, hanging in clusters from one corner of the frame as it is held up and finally falling off in bunches to the ground , where they continue a wild scramble in every direction probably crawling up one’s trouser leg, if the opportunity offers”

But on May 18th just last year The Independent said this:

For decades, Britain's native black bee has been an outcast. The Victorians threw Apis mellifera mellifera out of hives in favour of more industrious foreign species. Modern beekeepers brand it lazy and aggressive.Scientists believe the insect that made honey for the tables of medieval kings could reverse the collapse of bee numbers that has imperilled the annual pollination of crops worth £165m.The Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association (Bibba) believes the black honeybee, which has a thicker coat, could be hardy enough to survive the 21st century. see here

So perhaps beekeeping in the UK is about to have a little more frisson of risk and trouser legs should be firmly tied at all times.

Bibba (Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association) certainly think it is a worthwhile bee. They are champions of the “Dark bee.” This is from their article “Why The Native Bee Is The Best Bee For The British Climate”

“It is the experience of people who keep the Dark bee in this country that the bee will produce surplus honey every year, even when the summer is so cold and wet that bees of foreign origin have to be fed sugar to keep them alive. ….These characters, together with a population of long living worker bees, provide an optimum number of foragers ready to take full advantage of any short nectar flows during periods of unsettled weather.” read  more  here.

There is also another excellent article all about the origins of bees in general on their site.. “An introduction to understanding honeybees, their origins, evolution and diversity” , it’s a good read and reveals more of the  Dark Bee’s stalwart British character .. “will fly in dull and drizzly weather which would keep Italian bees indoors”.. I had to laugh!  

Bibba is looking for help with their Project Discovery “Dark Bee” survey and research. See this page here if you think you can help.

Honey and Bees..a question or two?

Do we ask too much of bees sometimes ..We expect them to pollinate vast areas of produce, and we take their honey which they need for their own survival and well being. Are we, as always, too greedy? Do we take too much honey? What do we give them  in fair return? I am not sure and I have asked myself this many times.

However my last breakfast in the USA will be fresh fruit with yoghourt and pale pale beautiful real Tupelo honey bought from my local beekeeper, Joe whose little honey bee was my first model.. I have come full circle Joe!


 My little black bee Apis mellifera mellifera perched on the lid of one of my honey jars.. I have many!…

Mellifera mellifera

Watercolour and pencil on Arches HP 8” x8”


Threadspider said...

Fascinating and educational! I am still hoping to make it to the exhibition and will introduce myself if we coincide. I wish you all the best with it and hope you will continue to paint and post about bees.

Marcia said...

We have some British black bees still in NZ, they being the original honeybees brought here. They are known for their attitude but are very good honey producers. Another print I would like !!

sharp green pencil said...

Threadspider Lovely to hear from you. Yes do come along. See the top of the blog for when I will be there officially but in London 1st two weeks in June to meet up with people too.

sharp green pencil said...

That's interesting Marcia presumably you now have mixed bees for general beekeeping. and yes it will be on your list ! :)

Roasted Garlicious said...

awesome post... thanks for the info... you make me want to start a hive.. perhaps one day when i get brave enough... your painting is wonderful as per usual :D

Unknown said...

Hi Val,
So you come to the end of a wonderful journey - a Van Morrison quote too! Beautifully done and no doubt educational for so many of us. I gave you, your blog and the exhibition a little plug on my blog http://mark-badgerseye.blogspot.com/2010/05/bugs-barwick-bugs-britannica.html and still hope to make it down to the big smoke to see you.

Best wishes


Unknown said...

Even though they're not native here, I love honeybees (and honey) and I'm always glad to see lots of them around here. As always, I love your work and I can't wait for mine to come in the mail. (Canada Post is notorious for being slow with packages from US).

sharp green pencil said...

Thank you all. I am really grateful to my blog readers for their support through this lovely journey of discovery with the bees. What next I am not quite sure!.. probably more bees..but not for a while