It should come as surprise to basically no one that I am deeply obsessed with my gardens and insect life. I've written a couple of different blog posts on the macro photography that I'm so passionate about. The whole reason I got into gardening was so that it would attract even more interesting insects to my yard so that I could photograph them. Way back in high school I took the most amazing environmental science class and ever since then I have spent thousands of hours observing and documenting the natural world.
Seventeen year-old Jenn's drawings and observations.
I recently discovered that I share a passion for science and the natural world with one of my beautiful brides, Jackie! Remember Jackie? From the most amazing Big Sur Wedding? Holy crap, that was a great day. Anyways, Jackie also has a huge interest in science and for some time has been wanting to find a hobby that is both altruistic and could be done with a sometimes chaotic schedule. Jackie is an actress and her audition and rehearsal schedule keeps her busy. It is equally important for actors and artists (ahem, photographers) to find hobbies. It is super easy for us to get lost in our craft and forget to tend to the parts of our brains that aren't creating art. Given our planet's dwindling bee populations, Jackie decided that the best hobby for her that would also give back to our world was beekeeping! She enrolled herself in apiary classes and a few months ago, acquired her hive. I was ECSTATIC when I found out she was doing this and even happier when she invited me out to her and Colin's Topanga oasis to document her bees. I photograph honey bees in my yard as much as I can... I love offering exhausted bees a little sugar water so they have enough energy to find their way home.
A honeybee using its proboscis to drink sugar water.
As a boudoir photographer, I'm often found taking pictures of boobies but I jumped at the chance to take some pictures of a whole hive of bee-bees!!!
See what I did there??
After suiting up, the first thing Jackie did was smoke her bees with a bee smoker. The smoke encourages the bees to move further down into the hive so it's easier for Jackie to inspect them. The smoke also masks the bee's pheromones so if some of the bees start to get a little agitated the rest of the hive doesn't notice!
Jackie has a Langstroth Hive which is made out of layers of boxes and frames that make it easier to collect honey when the bees start producing. An active hive can have anywhere from ten to sixty thousand bees! Hives are truly like miniature cities... every bee has a job and a purpose that supports the health of the hive.
A hive needs access to clean water (Jackie keeps a flowing fountain in her yard), proper ventilation, access to morning sun but protection from harsh afternoon sun, and security from animals looking to steal their honey! Jackie keeps a heavy brick on the lid of her hive to prevent greedy raccoons and she greases the legs of her hive to prevent ants from invading underneath.
I'm pretty obsessed with this image. I love the way the light bounces off all the fuzzy little bees.
Jackie carefully removes each frame to inspect them. Each active hive consists of one queen, hundreds of drones (the only males in a hive), thousands of older foragers, thousands of younger hive bees, thousands of capped brood, thousands of uncapped larva and thousands of eggs! She inspects them to make sure she can find evidence of all the inhabitants so that she knows her hive is healthy.
You mayyyyyyy be wondering why Jackie isn't wearing gloves and there is actually a really good reason for that! When she is gloveless it's easier for her to feel where the bees are when she is removing the frames. She tries very hard not to squish or kill any of the bees and when she's wearing gloves it can desensitize her to their movements. Honeybees are fairly chill by nature and remaining calm and collected around them helps them stay the same.
One of my favorite moments of the hive inspection was getting to see this bee being born!!!! I've wanted to do birth photography for what feels like forever.... have I finally broken into the market?!?!
Some of the frames were positively dripping with bees and I was so impressed with how confidently and precisely Jackie would flip the frames around to inspect her ladies.
I mean... come on. She's a brilliant, beautiful bad-ass.
While I was documenting, I did not have on a bee suit but I did have on many layers of protective clothing. Most importantly, I had on large socks that I could tuck my jumper into so the bees wouldn't accidentally get inside my clothing. Even with the protective clothing, it is impossible not to get any bees on you! You just have to remain calm and gently shake them off as you go.
This little cutie landed on my leg and was quite the model until I shooed her away.
Once the hive has been fully inspected Jackie carefully reassembled the hive. While the older foragers are experts at finding their way home most of the hive's inhabitants are a bit directionally challenged. As the smoke encourages the bees to get as low as they can many of them spilled out and got stuck underneath the hive or on the ground. Jackie assisted them in finding their way back by stopping them up by hand!
I had to put my camera down to help so I didn't get any photos of it, but I also got to scoop up the bees! It feels like your holding dozens of slightly sticky vibrators.
This entire experience was absolutely magical for me. My husband has a pretty severe bee allergy, so keeping my own hive is not in my future. I feel a sense of commitment to support my local apiarists and to continue documenting bee behavior in my own backyard.
Bees are crucial to our ecosystems. Make space for them, respect them. Find joy in observing the creatures that help keep our species alive. M'kay, loves?