The Bee Keeper’s Daughter

Posted by Sarah Jane Humphrey on

As the daughter of bee keepers, I have long had an insightful adoration of these wonderful little creatures. When my parents first started with a few hives dotted around their potager in France, they told me that once you start to have an interest in bees you will notice them everywhere. Could this be true I wondered? Well, yes – as it turns out that is exactly how it is!

 

Carpenter Bee

The Carpenter Bee

 

On a trip some years ago to France I was fortunate enough to encounter so many different types, but I think my personal favourite has to be the rather striking carpenter bee; a gentle giant by comparison to the frantic chaos of the dizzying honey bees. However, they are all wonderful to observe in their own unique ways.

 

A very secure fixing of my bee suit
A very secure fixing of my bee suit with the help from my Mum

A Garden of Inspiration

As a keen gardener myself, I try to be thoughtful of bee friendly plants and keeping a garden in flower for all seasons helps. The added benefits of this are that there is something pretty to look out to all year around, and as a botanical and scientific illustrator it helps to provide me with a constant supply of inspiration.  

It's not only whilst at their prime of flowering that plants are useful to scientific illustrators. Plants can be particularly enjoyable whilst their flowers begin to fade, the fruit or seeds begin to form and they take on a new appearance. For some, they take on a more woody delicate emergence as their energy slowly seeps back into the roots. However, this is a time when the bees will be seeking a new source of pollen. Therefore, it is important in your planting scheme to consider early spring and late summer flowers that will attract them.

Spring flowers for Bees

Winter flowering heather, Hellebores, Primrose, Winter Flowering Honeysuckle

Late Summer flowers for Bees

Dahlia, Lavender, Verbena, Japanese Anenomes, Hebe

 

Fleurs sauvages

My parents very much favour wild flowers or fleurs sauvages, and let the ivy run wild over their potager stone walls which are autumnal source of pollen and nectar for flower visiting insects. To encourage the bees to your potager try planting flowers as either companion plants to your vegetables or simply close by. Whilst gathering nectar and pollen from the flowers they will also pollinate your crops. Lavender, comfrey, geranium, sunflowers, lupin’s, borage to name a few are all very bee friendly plants

 Sarah's bee suit
This is me, all set to take a closer look at the bee's

Improving crops 

To encourage the bees to visit your potager or garden, try planting flowers as either companion plants to your vegetables or simply close by. Whilst gathering nectar and pollen from the flowers the bees will also pollinate your crops. Lavender, comfrey, geranium, sunflowers, lupins and borage are all very bee friendly plants.

 

the bee keepers daughter
My Dad tending to the bees at their potager

Close Observations

Aside from having a curious eye, encouraging bee and insect friendly plants help a myriad of ecosystems continue to evolve. I have studied a very small number of these unique life cycles and find it a fascinating part of botanical and scientific illustration to get close to your subject when the matter presents itself. Observing closely how not just the bees, but in fact any life forms behave naturally, will always enhance your illustrations. Developing a clearer understanding of movements and the relationship between pollenating insects and plants has given me a real sense of enthusiasm to introduce them more frequently to my botanical illustrations. I think this adds a real point of interest and an informative aspect to my artwork.

 

Putting the research of field studies into artistic practice
Putting the research of field studies into artistic practice

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