Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's been a while, and so it seemed time for an update to the bee blog. Many bees (paintings) have moved along to new homes over the past year (thank you, lovers of the honeybee!) and these are the ones I still have (well, except the bee at bottom, seen on spanish lavender). These can be seen at my studio the coming weekend during ARTrails or feel free to email me at Lisabee@sonic.net for more info. Interesting how well the colors of these work together...

recent bee painting activity

What's up in bee-painting activity of late, you might ask? Well, this year has not seen nearly so much painting of individual bee-portraits, but a few have recently flown into large, more abstract paintings, such as the one seen at left. (click on image to enlarge it!)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bees at Lynmar Winery's Gardens

Bees are still going strong with plenty to do in October at Lynmar Winery, just up the road from us in Graton. The gardens are absolutely worth a visit (see link about garden tours, but call ahead to be sure!)

Friday, November 4, 2011

painting: bee on milkweed

One of the first paintings done of a bee NOT seen in our own yard or immediate neighborhood-- this honeybee was seen and photographed at a delightful butterfly garden in Elkton, Oregon when we passed through this summer. I highly recommend a visit  if you find yourself in the Umpqua Valley between Memorial Day and Labor Day (they're only open when the high school students who work there are out of school.)

At right you can see the full milkweed flower more clearly--  an important host plant for Monarch butterflies. See a little video we filmed of the Monarchs in Elkton here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

painting: bee on borage

bee on borage, acrylic on wood, 5 x 5" SOLD
This little bee is being donated to the annual Art for Life auction, a lovely event put on by Face to Face, Sonoma County's Aids Network. The Auction will be held this Saturday in Windsor, CA. To preview some of the other work which will be available for purchase, click here.

bees of early Fall

The bees of early September are still going strong-- crazy for fennel & Autumn Joy sedum, dahlias, & sunflowers. More paintings will surely follow... :  )

Friday, September 9, 2011

paintings: two bees on verbena

'Dancer': SOLD  
I've posted earlier about how much the bees love this plant: verbena bonariensis- here, more evidence.


painting: honeybee on lemon blossom

honeybee on lemon blossom, acrylic on wood,  5 x 5.25"
I love this bee's splayed-leg stance as it goes to work on this Meyer lemon blossom.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

painting: honeybee on Rhaphiolepis

honeybee on rhaphiolepis, acrylic on wood,  5.12 x 5.12" SOLD
Rhaphiolepis, aka Indian Hawthorne, was one of the two plants (together with Spanish Lavender) that had bees flocking to our Sonoma County garden in about April of this year.

Six bees fly!

six bees--various sizes; SOLD

These six bees left together for a new home today. I love to see them hung in groupings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

painting: honeybee on Japanese Iris

bee on iris, acrylic on wood, 5 x 5.5",   SOLD
This bee is shown on the underside of a white Japanese Iris (iris ensata). The nectar of these flowers must drip down beneath the blossoms, as this is where I frequently saw honeybees at work, rather than in the interior of the flower.

Monday, September 5, 2011

paintings: bees on mustard

bee on mustard (green), acrylic on wood, 3.5 x 5",  SOLD
bee on mustard (sky), acrylic on wood, 3.75 x 5.25" SOLD
I'm finishing up bee paintings started a little while back, so these bees are shown on mustard (which grows wildly here-- fields & fields of it here in the spring) which bloomed several months back.  Both are picking up good quantities of pollen-- which you can see most clearly in the second bee's pollen sacs.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Next Four

The next four bee paintings coming down the pike (begun yesterday) will be based on these:
bees on onion flower, on Pelargonium sidoidies - Umckaloabo (yeah, had to look that one up), on a meyer lemon blossom, and on agastache.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Films about Bees

There are a number of great films about bees available now; some you can watch from your computer, some are rentable , others are still available only in limited screenings.

For a mind-blowing overview of how honeybees work-- "Bees: Tales From the Hive", a Nova documentary with incredible footage of bees in flight, is very comprehensive and covers all the phases of their life cycles. I had the DVD delivered from Netflix, and I find that someone has put the entire film up on YouTube in 3 parts (first part linked below).
As "Tales From the Hive" came out in 2000, and Colony Collapse Disorder wasn't on the radar until 2006, of course it doesn't deal with the topic, but a slew of new films do.
There's a PBS documentary called "Silence of the Bees" (2007) (which you can watch at the link), a (slightly quirky) one called Colony, available streaming on Netflix, and the most recent I watched, Vanishing of the Bees (2010), which I *highly* recommend (rentable through Netflix).  It puts forth what seems like a pretty plausible explanation for CCD. Yet another that has been recommended to me by several people, but can only be seen at this point in very limited screenings is Queen of the Sun.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Painting: bee on scabiosa

acrylic on panel, 3.5 x 5"

Have you ever noticed how a lot of pretty flowers have names that sound like diseases? This is one that always seems to me to be unfortunately named-- 'scabiosa'-- though it's sometimes also referred to as Pincushion Flower. (The blossom in this painting is a not fully opened bud.)

The flowers come in shades of lavender, blu-ish, pink-ish, cream, and even burgundy, though the one I most commonly see by far is the lavender.

Super hardy, this plant blooms away from February or so through frost here in Northern California. (I do deadhead it to keep it going.) Mine also sends out little 'plantlets' around the edges, in a widening clump and I move these around the yard, so it's always gaining more ground. I believe it reseeds fairly freely too.

And yes, bees are always visiting the flowers.

bee on scabiosa in our garden

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Waggle Dance of the honeybees

One of the fascinating things I've learned about this year (or relearned, most likely) is how a foraging honeybee who has found a good nectar source communicates the location of those flowers to the other bees back at the hive. Turns out they communicate distance & direction by doing a 'waggle dance' in a figure eight formation, that even calculates for the changing position of the sun.

One of the things this has led me to think about is: somewhere there are bees dancing about my garden!
And: where are those hives where 'my' bees live?  In posts to come, I'll be looking into some of these.

Much more information exist over on this handy wikipedia page.

Monday, July 4, 2011

painting: bee on Spanish lavender

honeybee on spanish lavender  SOLD
Four of the first bee paintings I did this spring were of bees on Spanish lavender (aka lavandula stoechas). Our plants were constantly covered in bees while they were in bloom in April. I call Spanish lavender the 'one with the rabbit ears'-- referring to the violet petals at the top-- which distinguish it from the more commonly known English lavender.  Whichever kind-- bees seem to be uniformly enthusiastic about lavenders.

We're lucky to live in the Mediterranean climate where these fragrant plants thrive. One place nearby where I love to visit in true peak lavender season, which seems to be right about NOW (I think it's a little late this year due to a prolonged rainy season) is the Matanzas Creek Winery in Santa Rosa. I've posted pictures of the gardens there almost every time I've visited, over on my Garden Blog, in 2007, 2008, & 2010.  Definitely worth a visit for lovers of bees, gardens-- oh, and of course wine...
at Matanzas Creek
bees on Spanish lavender

Thursday, June 30, 2011

painting: bee on gallardia

Here's another bee sporting an impressive pollen sac-- that yellowish bulge on the leg. She's seen here on a Gaillardia bloom, aka 'blanket flower'-- presumably because the striking pattern of the petals was thought to resemble 'the brightly patterned blankets made by native Americans.'
There are a number of species of the plant-- all in bright cheerful combinations of various reds & yellows, and they are especially welcome in the California summer for their low-fuss drought tolerant qualities.

as the blossoms open

Sunday, June 26, 2011

painting: bee on blackberry blossom


A huge source of bee activity these days in my neck of the woods are the blackberry blossoms blooming along every back road, bike trail and creek at this time of year. And did you know how strongly the flavor of honey is influenced by the plants on which bees seek nectar during the season?  Some beekeeping neighbors, who not long ago moved their hives with them from the East Bay to their current home near the Graton Bike Trail, say all their honey now is blackberry honey.

"There exist greater than 300 different distinct types of honey. Flavor, aroma and color of a honey can differ substantially based on the flowers that nectar was collected from. Honey flavors range from slight hints of sweetness to great bounds of distinct flavor, its colors similarly can run the gambit of being a clear as water to a deep dark brown. There exist as many flavors of honey in the world as exists combinations of blossoms in bloom at the same time.via wikibooks
Click over here for more info on varieties of honey, including lists of the attributes (including color differences) which are dependent on the plants bees have visited.

Friday, June 24, 2011

paintings: Four Bees on Blues


For Friday of National Pollinator Week, I bring you not one, but four! small paintings of bees.

clockwise from top left: on verbena, on scabiosa, on verbena again, on borage. All are bona fide bee magnets in our Sonoma County Garden.

all paintings approx. 5 x 5", acrylic on plywood

Thursday, June 23, 2011

painting: bee on verbascum

bee on verbascum, acrylic on plywood, 8.5 x 7"
Today's bee is gathering pollen on verbascum, aka mullein. (Specifically, verbascum bombyciferum 'Arctic Summer', which I got at the awesome Annie's Annuals.) The fact that bees might EITHER be collecting nectar OR pollen from a given flower is something I learned about over on the excellent blog 'Old Drone': bees, pollination and more', written by a retired commercial beekeeper. The difference in the behavior of bees engaged in each activity became quite obvious once I knew of it.
"To collect nectar, or to collect pollen is a choice. Worker bees that are collecting nectar take longer in each flower, probing the flower’s nectaries with their tongues for sweet droplets which they carry in their crops back to the hives. Bee that are gathering nectar will accomplish some pollination by accident.

But other bees make the choice to deliberately gather pollen, likely because there is quite a bit of open brood in the hive that requires the pollen for protein for its development....These bees do not probe with their tongues; rather they “doggy paddle” through the stamens to get as much pollen as possible to adhere to their fuzzy bodies. Then they comb this pollen into their pollen baskets and carry it home. Bees that are deliberately gathering pollen are as much as ten times more efficient pollinators than those who are gathering nectar."
Bees who have been actively pollinating have clearly visible bulges on the hind legs-- which is pollen stored in their pollen sacs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

painting: bee on Lamb's Ear

Today's bee of the day, (for Pollinator's Week) appears on 'Lamb's Ear', aka stachys byzantina. We don't actually have this in our garden (yet!) but it was growing a couple blocks up the street, where I could see that bees are in fact wild about it. (painting approx. 5 x 5", acrylic on plywood)

At left, you can see the Lamb's Ear (the white-grey spires in the center) as growing at Oak Grove Elementary School, Sonoma County.

The leaves are soft and fuzzy (hence the name), and I believe it to spread easily. "Lamb’s ears is very hardy, and very easy to grow. It requires full sun, good drainage, and little more. Over the years your patch will become overgrown and will need to be thinned out every, perhaps, 2-3 years. To keep the patch neat you can cut back the flowering stems once they have finished flowering and they are beginning to develop seeds." Apparently the plant may also have some medicinal uses. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

painting: honeybee on verbena

In honor of National Pollinator Week, I'll be posting a new bee painting each day this week. Today's bee is featured on verbena bonariensis, a favorite of bees & butterflies alike. Super easy to grow, & reseeds FREELY. Will grow up to 6, 7 feet tall with small clusters of flowers, and almost no foliage. (painting 5 x 5", acrylic on plywood)

photo at left: bee at work on verbena in my Sonoma County community garden plot

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's National Pollinator Week!

Lots of people know that honeybees are in trouble, and our food system along with 'em... but perhaps less have a clear grasp of how the pollination process works (and I'm speaking for myself here!) There's a frisky little explanation of the process over at Bug Girl's Blog, which ultimately boils down to three words: Sex for Plants!

Now National Pollinator Week seeks to educate & celebrate the process, while helping us to become better stewards of our environment. There's a page of super-nicely designed planting guides on their site here, where you can input your zip code to determine your zone (I'm in California Coastal Steppe-- Mixed Forest-Redwood Forest Province) and then find out more about what you can plant & do to help out your local pollinators!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How this Bee Painting Project began

I'm a painter and gardener living in Sonoma County, about one hour north of San Francisco.
In May of 2010, I started a series of paintings on small salvaged scraps of plywood inspired by the interesting spherical blooms of buddleia globosa in my garden.
I shot a bunch of photos of the plant-- and in every photo there were bees, climbing busily over all the blossoms.  After a while, I put a bee into one of the images, and soon all seven of the paintings contained bees.
This year in spring, again I was looking for a way to make some small, very direct paintings, and again I turned to bees-- this time individual bees, each centered like a portrait on its smaller block of wood. The size & format of the paintings, coupled with the subject satisfied something in me. As an avid gardener who has kept up a garden blog for 5 years-- I'm used to waking up and photographing plants and flowers in the yard and watching as things change over the year. I'm now focussing my camera more actively on the bees as they go about their business, and noticing which plants they favor as they come into bloom from day to day. Of course, we have all heard of the danger that honeybees face from colony collapse disorder, and I'm happy to think that perhaps in my small way, by providing friendly habitat, I'm helping to keep our local bee population robust. Part of my intention, as I follow my bees through the seasons in paintings which I will post here, is to learn more about them, and to share some of that information with anyone who cares to follow along with me.

The current series of bee paintings underway are quite small--from 3 x 5" to 5 x 5", all painted in acrylic on salvaged plywood. Most will be of bees observed in my own Sonoma County yard, and so far, photographed at very close range with a little Canon Powershot.

Feel free to write me at Lisabee(at)sonic.net (and note that you must spell out the b-e-e  or it won't reach me)