Who doesn't love bees? (Well, maybe those that are allergic... I feel for y'all and I'm so glad that's not something I have to look out for). With their cute little striped fuzzy abdomens, their buzz buzz buzzing, the honey they create, and of course the food they pollinate for us - there is a lot to love about bees.
One of the first shadowbox necklaces I created (after an owl pellet skull, of course) was a little honeybee necklace that a beloved coworker purchased back in 2010. Creating that necklace, I already knew that many folks have an affinity for bees. Especially since 2005/2006 when the investigation and sharing of the plight of the bees, aka Colony Collapse Disorder, became front page news. During that time I was working on a large sculptural installation of a honeycomb as a celebration of my own connection with bees and the cycles of life + death. As a collective we all began tuning in and understanding more about the problem with bees dying off in radical numbers, and our own roles in their issue: a lack of a nutritional food source during winter (being fed sugar water vs. their own honey), pesticides that compromise their immune systems, trucking bees from various parts of the country and world, relying on one insect to pollinate a vast percentage of our food when they aren't even indigenous to North America (yes, bees are native to Eurasia, not here).
Instead of making this post about Colony Collapse Disorder and the threats that still remain, I want to celebrate the bees through sharing a little bit about what bees aren't. Sounds strange maybe, but hang on... :)
Bees are not wasps. I have this conversation often: in person, or over social media. There are many other insects that can look like bees. And many types of bees.
These are just a few insect gifts I've found and received since moving back to the Pacific Northwest this summer. My dad found the big black bumble bee up top. I love these, as they look like a teddy bear version of a bee. So cute! The middle one is a wasp given to me by a neighbor who said she had a bee for me. Oops, not a bee! Wasps don't usually have the same fuzz as a bee. That's one of the ways you can tell the difference. There are of course, many different types of wasps, but a lot of them have more slender abdomens than bees do and some have extremely long, dangly, bright yellow legs. The one on the bottom is a bee. These are the type I usually encase in a shadowbox necklace. They are the most recognizable, "honeybee."
One of my favorite parts of a bee is the subtle, yet noticeable iridescent sheen to their little tiny angel wings. You can see the glints in the photo below. Refractions of light can remind us of worlds beyond The World. It can remind us of the magic of nature - the hidden and the visible. Much like the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see a rainbow in the sky.
When I find bees, they tend to have passed in two different positions: "In Flight" as the one above, and "Wings Outstretched" as the ones below. Both orientations showcase different parts of the bee. The fuzziness is usually a little more on display with the ones In Flight, and the delicate wings are more on showcase with the Wings Outstretched.
I like to keep the wings in position for the sake of quality. As a rule I prefer to not introduce moisture into my process. Meaning - to reposition the wings I'd have to hydrate the bee and this could cause issues during the soldering process. The bee could overheat and cause the glass box to get cloudy due to the added moisture.
Back to what bees are not. There are other insects intentionally masquerading as bees. Bee mimic flies, also known as bee flies or hoverflies. They look like bees and will hover over flowers just like a bee. My sister found a hoverfly recently and thought it was a bee. And, just yesterday after beginning this blog post I was looking at my dad's new website and noticed he had a picture of one of these bee imposters thinking it was a real bee. It looks just like one, right? But, notice how it's missing the signature fuzz of bees, and the abdomen is more flat than that of a bee.
It's important to note that many other insects pollinate flowers as well. Known as accidental pollinators or lazy pollinators, other insects can spread pollen just by bumbling along from flower to flower. They may not mobilize and organize as bees and their colonies do, but they make an impact in their own roles, however small.
And, before I sign off, I have a confession to make. Back in 2011 I made my first Etsy sale - a bee necklace to a gal in Germany (very exciting and a bit daunting that my first online sale was overseas, but hooray!). It wasn't until she contacted me a couple of years later requesting a replacement necklace as she had lost hers, that I realized - oops, that was actually a bee mimic I had encased! I had some knowledge of the insect world before I began HartVariations back in 2010, but I have definitely learned a lot more along the way. This is why I love what I do. If you haven't met me in person or read about the origin story of HartVariations, finding nature treasures is something that's always been a part of my life. I encased my first bee for my coworker at the beginning of my jewelry journey because I had one. Actually, I had more than a few at that time. I am always on the lookout for treasures beneath my feet that can be transformed into a wearable talisman and celebrated for all time.
I don't have any bee necklaces at this time, but hope to be able to make a couple when I get my temporary studio set up. TBA on the date of that. It will be a limited production scenario - I'll only be able to create pieces I prepped glass for prior to closing up my California studio. Luckily I had enough time to include materials for a couple of honeybee shadowbox necklaces. If you'd like to be notified when those are available, click here to sign up for The Bee List.
I've been appreciating exploring close to home these last months while the world is still on pause. I'm sure I'll find more bees during my walks, amongst other nature treasures.
Wishing you all a restful rest of the summer.
xx, (well, maybe post Coronavirus, ha!)
*all of the bees I use are found after their natural passing by me + friends of HartVariations