I sometimes take photos when looking in the bee hives. I look for interesting, unusual, disturbing or even normal things. I do this partly to record them and partly because I’ve found I can scrutinise the scene better back at my desk on a big screen with a zoomed photo than I can from behind my bee veil.
Here’s something I captured that I think is very cool: a bee being born. Here she is just popping her antennae out after eating through the cap which covered her honeycomb. This tiny cell has been her incubator for 3 weeks.
And here she is popping her body out!
This miracle of birth happens something like 1500 times a day in the average beehive. Honestly the scale of all-things-bee really blows my mind.
Though these photos show the birth of a bee (which I maintain is very cool), they don’t really show the reproductive process of bees. When you think about bees you have to think in terms of a colony – more an organism than a collection of individuals. Each bee is reasonably insignificant and so one more or less in a colony doesn’t really matter. Sure the colony needs new bees (lots of them) in order to thrive or even survive, but replacing bees in a hive does nothing to ensure the survival of the species. A colony can go on forever in the same hive with new bees, even a new queen, until disease or famine or fire or flood or predator or any number of disasters kills it. In order to truly reproduce, a new colony has to be created, not just a bee (or even a thousand bees). Bees do this via a swarm.
Which does nothing to diminish the coolness of these birthing photos in my mind.