Photographing Fascinating Lives Of Bees

As my interests in photography expanded one thing I became more interested in was photographing small things up close, or macro photography. One of the first types of subjects this encompassed was flowers. But, the more I looked closely at flowers the more I began to notice the insects that pollinate them. Often the pollinators are insects with wings that come and go.

The insects I see most often pollinating flowers are probably bees. I am no entomologist, so I am sure they are not all bees, but let’s call them bee like insects. I often struggle identifying insects so that is not the focus of this post. But I do love watching bees and their kind.

Bee visiting wildflowers at Tanglewood Nature Center in New York.

While bees may be the insects I most often SEE pollinating flowers, it doesn’t mean that bees are the insects I photograph the most pollinating flowers. Bees are fast moving insects. They weave in and out among flowers. Moving quickly from blossom to blossom. Sometimes just taking a brief look at a flower to see if it is worth their time. Other times they land briefly then move on. And at the best for photography the a bee will land on a flower collecting nectar and pollinating a flower blossom for several seconds.

Pollination of a yellow flower at Cornell Botanic Gardens.

Capturing Bee Photos

The seemingly random nature of bees attending to flowers, from my perspective as a photography, makes it a challenge to capture good photographs. A fast, unpredictable subject that I am trying to get close up to presents real challenges. Even if I get a bee in frame there is no guarantee they will be in focus.

Close-up of a bee on hydrangea flowers at Cornell Botanic Gardens.

There are two types of bee imagery I really enjoy capturing. Being able to hone in on a bee in flight and capture it as it is moving among the flowers is always a cool image, especially if the flowers are in view as well. This most likely only happens if a bee decides to stay still hovering near a flower without moving.

Sometimes a bee will take a nice long time to explore an entire flower piece by piece or will sit atop a flower blossom and stay still. In these cases I really try to position myself so that I can photograph the bees head facing the camera. It is best if I can get in really close and watch the bee as it is crawling over the flower and the bee appears over the flower petals as if it is appearing over a hilltop. Achieving a nice shot with the bees head and some of the flower parts are in sharp focus and the fest of the image out of focus can either be perfect timing and luck or a practice in persistence and patience.

Busy bees pollinating the foliage along the lake at Rickets Glen State Park in PA

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