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Bee Hives in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley

Bee hives in an Abbotsford, British Columbia apiary.

bee hives in a fraser valley abbotsford apiary

Bee Hives in Abbotsford (Purchase)

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   I was photographing a scene with farmland and Mount Baker the other day in Abbotsford, BC. This was to be my first stop of many on the way through Mission, the Harrison area and Agassiz. Some horses came over to the fence to say hello, but wandered off after they realized I didn’t have any treats or anything for them. With the horses came the flies, which was annoying. I made this photograph of the bee hives in the field (probably 60 feet away from me) soon after. I made 3 exposures. The first two were like this, and the third is very blurry. As I was making the 3rd exposure a bee flew partly up my nose (I thought it was a fly). After a failed “one nostril push” maneuver to get it out I grabbed it with my fingers. The result of this was a bee stinger lodged in that space between my upper lip and my recently invaded nostril.

   I had not been stung by a bee since I was a kid, and it is still the unpleasant experience that I recall. It felt a bit like I’d been hit in the teeth with something. I quickly got in my car (I’d been standing next to it) and looked in the rear view mirror. Sure enough, there was a bee stinger in my face. I tried to flick it out with a fingernail but it stayed put. I then remembered reading that you can get them out with a credit card or something flat like that. If you grab a stinger with your fingers, the round part above the surface will act a bit like a turkey baster – and you’ll inject all the venom into the wound. I wished to avoid this, and a quick flick with a credit card got the stinger out of my face. All in all it was probably only in there for 10-15 seconds. Not having had a sting for 25+ years, I wasn’t sure how my body was going to react. Things like this can swell quit a bit, so I cut my trip short (after only about 25 minutes) to go home and endure whatever messy aftermath was to befall me rather than it playing out in public. I didn’t want a golf ball sized swelling on my face when I was trying to photograph either. So I grabbed the freezer pack from my cooler, stuck it on my face, and drove home. As it turned out I only had some minor swelling and it all settled down after about 30 minutes (the ice probably helped). I went out again to shoot a local park after dinner. I guess it was a relatively good outcome that the worst of this was that I had to postpone my trip one day. I’m also glad that I managed to complete shooting Mount Baker and the farmland successfully so I won’t have to return to that spot!

For more photographs of bees and other critters take a look at my Animals and Wildlife Gallery.

Honeybee (Apis mellifera) Macro

honeybee apis mellifera foraging on a buddleja flower
Nectar Gathering
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   One of the things I love most about macro photography is how a small area of the backyard can suddenly yield almost infinite possibilities with a macro lens. One of my favourite macro subject are bees – and while I have shot a lot of these it can be rather hit and miss. You need a decent shutter speed as these and other insects don’t seem to sit still long while on a flower. To do this I shot at a higher ISO than usual (800 in this case), and at a wide aperture (f/6.3 for a little more DOF than f/2.8) so I could have a high shutter speed. I was also doing this hand held with a 100mm lens with no stabilization, so a shutter speed of 1/100sec would have not turned out well with just the camera shake from my hands (that 1/focal length rule). These guys dart around so much that using a tripod would drive one mad so these settings are important.

   Even with settings like this there is still a lot of trial and error. So I take a lot of shots. This further illustrated to me my need to upgrade from my 2Gb CF cards – they were okay for my 30D but the 7D in RAW mode results in 22-25 megabytes for each photo. Once you start taking something other than landscapes having only 70 exposures available before switching cards is limiting.

Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) Drinking

honey bee drinking at birdbath

I have occasionally seen the odd honey bee drinking water from the edge of the pond, and occasionally from the edge of the birdbath – but never en masse like they have this year. I don’t know if it is the nature of the summer weather, or the fact the neighbours have a beehive – but they have been there every day in numbers for most of the last few months. I got the tripod and my macro lens in very close to them and aside from a few buzzing around my head they didn’t much care I was there. At least they sit still on the birdbath relative to on the flowers.

honey bee drinking at birdbath honey bees drinking at birdbath group

honey bee drinking at birdbath honey bee drinking at birdbath