Tuesday, 29 March 2011


An hour to spare on a beautiful spring day and bumblebees feeding in numbers on the blossoming flowers in the garden. A perfect opportunity to get some shots of the bee's essential adaptations – the pollen sac, the long nectar-grabbing proboscis and those small, gossamer wings that – somehow – defy the laws of aeronautics…

All Canon 1Ds MkII, twinned with either a 24-70mm, 17-35mm macro or a 70-200mm lens

The hairs on the bee's thorax, abdomen and legs show particularly well in the spring sunshine

Note the bulging pollen sac on the bee's hind leg, which has rows of brushes called pollen combs which are used to pass pollen up the leg. As it does so, it is also moistened by the bee with a touch of nectar, meaning it can be kneaded into a pellet which is then placed on a spike on the leg. This is the pollen sac. 

This image shows the bee's tongue being used to gather nectar from the flower. The proboscis is folded under its head and body in flight, inside a sheath formed by the palps and maxillae. The tongue itself – deep inside the flower here – is covered in hairs at the tip. These hairs are porous, allowing molecules to pass through to receptor sites on sensory cells. This is how the bee is able to 'taste' and 'smell' its food sources.

The network of veins in the structure of the bee's wing is highlighted in the spring sunshine.

A close-up of the Red-tailed Bee's defence mechanism. That deep red seems to add to the sense that it could pack quite a sting.

And another shot illustrating the bee's wing structure. The wings are made up of thin membranes of cuticle, stiffened and supported by veins. A chemical is transported through the veins throughout the bee's life to ensure the wings remain stiff but flexible and perfectly airworthy.


  1. These are amazing macro shots Tim, such detail.

  2. Exquisite images of a beautiful creature.
    I enjoyed seeing the detail on each and every one of them...

    Thank you for sharing your artwork with us......

  3. Excellent work Tim. I don't think any of the foraging Bees are stopping still long enough here!