How to Photograph Bees-One of Nature's Most Valuable Resources
Common Honey Bee with pollen/Apidae
The project is not simply finding bees while they peruse their flowered menu but to also include other images that can tell your viewers a story about what these busy little creatures undergo in the span of one busy day.
It is best to start with images of their hives, natural or man made and record images of them penetrating the hive and exiting as they venture into the wild to do their duties.
Using a long zoom will allow you to "get in close" without risking disturbing them or being stuck by one as they can be very protective of their nesting sites.
It is best if you can get in touch with a bees cultivator and ask for permission to photograph them.
Most of the time you will be surprised as how diligently they will assist you in getting the best images and will provide tons of useful information which you can incorporate later in an article to accompany your shots.
Anywhere where you find flowers, fruit trees and vegetation there are bound to be nature's workaholics; bees. These little creatures will frequently be seen around flowers serving two basic functions; collecting pollen to feed the colony and pollinating plants.
Nature's bounty of beautiful trees and flowers and fruit varieties would not be so plentiful without their help as can be seen in some provinces in parts of China where through the use of insecticides they have been wiped out and now humans have to hand pollinate thousand of fruit trees if they are to reap the crops.
The good thing about this project is that you will probably not have to go far in search of bees and if left undisturbed photographing them does not require that much effort except for some specialized photo gear such as a long zoom and a tripod and perhaps a small flash unit.
Close ups or macros of bees and the flowers upon which they feed are great shots to have but you should not do all of your photography this way if you are making something like a photographic documentary. Including regular size shots, wide angle ones and close ups do a better job in telling the story and you should have a balance of views.
A good source will be to research some of the species typical for your location and contacting your local wildlife center or even the zoological organization in your city. This is usually a good way to locate suitable subjects and even find some exotic varieties.
For example a new variety of bees has been slowly introduced into prats of the United States. These bees unlike the more commonly known ones are a nice deep greenish hue and show very well in photographs. These green orchid bees were recently introduced to parts of Florida in 2003 from Mexico and Central America. This particular bee has a longer proboscis than its common cousin and thus can pollinate and get nectar from flowers other bees may not be able to reach.
There are also other varieties such as the wood boring bees or carpenter bees which are mostly loners and make their homes in hollows in the trunks of trees. The difference in their appearance is that these carpenter bees are mostly blackish with yellow hairs and black abdomen while the more common honey bee has yellow hairs on the tip of their abdomens.
Green Orchid Bee/ Euglossa
"Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila.
There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher.
They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae." Wikipedia
There are many spies of bees and just as many color varieties. Your project will go a long way towards being picked up by commercial publications that dwell in nature subjects if you include several photo samples of different bee varieties. Another seldom heard bee species is the "Osmia ribifloris, one of several species referred to as a blueberry bee, is a megachilid bee native to the coastal mountains of southern California. This solitary bee normally gathers pollen from manzanita, but will pollinate blueberries."Wikipedia.
Like all other bees they play a great part in the pollination of plants and this particular one is heavily used by blueberry growers, thus their common name blueberry bee.
Be careful and do not confuse bees with wasps. The latest is much more aggressive and its sting that much more painful.
The most difficult photographs,but at the same time should be part of the project, will be those that capture bees as they make their way from location to location.
Freezing the action is paramount and for this you will need a fast shutter speed and a flash unit. This combination of a fast shutter speed,a good zoom and a flash unit is mostly what is required for the large majority of your shots. You can physically move closer or away from the subjects to accomplish other types of shots but having different lenses does help.
The best technique is to focus as best a you can on a specimen as it hovers near a potential nectar source and take several shot in rapid succession thus increasing your chances of capturing at least one image where all the bee's details are clearly visible and in focus.
Include portions of the flower as their coloration gives the overall image a contrasting tone and serves to highlight the insect from the host.
Carpenter bee/Xylocopa violacea
We have described honey bees, blueberry bees, carpenter bees as well as the common short name of bee.
But specialized publications are very keen to the cultural diversification in name recognition; one common name in one part of the world may not be the same common name in other parts of the world.
This is why for most projects like this one, you should always include the scientific name of each species.
This not only makes it easier to correctly identify each subject but it also shows editors that you have done your research and are aware of the need for specific facts especially if their readership expects to see this type of information.
Honey Bee with pollen laden legs/Apidae
If you are able try to also include images that depicts the benefits that these insects provide mankind such as the pollination of fruit trees, flowers and the resulting honey by product as well as the pollen which are consumed by a large number of people.
This information and accompanying images gives the project its finishing touches and makes for a more complete endeavor.
Some additional research should also reveal other useful facts about honey like that honey was used in ancient times as a potent disinfectant and antibiotic which was commonly applied to wounds in order to make them heal faster not to mention the beauty applications which are commonly in use even today.
Blueberry Bee/Osmia ribifloris
© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez
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