Bee macro shots by Drew Scott…and queen news!

You are in for a treat. In my last blog post I shared with you some of my boyfriend Drew’s awesome photos from Saturday, but I didn’t show many of the macro shots.

Now you get the macro shots. Plus, if you can keep going to the end of the post, some exciting (for me anyway) queen news…

If you look closely at this worker’s mandibles I think she has some propolis in them. We’re often looking down on bees – seeing their eyes and upper bodies – so I like this shot because it reminds me how practical their mandibles are, just like little pliers. Very handy for manipulating propolis and wax.

Please show the above photos to anyone who tries to tell you honeybees have yellow and black stripes. Up close they are a gorgeous mix of shimmering, subtle, browns, oranges and blacks. And very hairy.

This larvae’s sealed cell was accidentally damaged whilst removing brace comb. You can see its legs have the same form as an adult bee, but are a translucent white colour, whilst its eyes are pink. Kinda creepy looking!

Ah the many colours of pollen. Beautiful. Some of these bees will be young workers eating it so that their glands can produce brood food, whilst others will be returning foragers head-butting it in for storage.


I got very excited when I saw this one. It’s trophallaxis! (A fancy word for bee food sharing). You can see their tongues meeting.

Workers will constantly pass nectar around, so the aroma of their shared food ends up giving bees in a colony a shared scent. One of the ways a guard bee patrolling the hive entrance recognises fellow colony members is this common smell. If several colonies are close by and sharing large areas of a single crop such as oil-seed rape, they will often become irritable because lots of drifting occurs and they cannot tell each other apart.

Trophallaxis more often takes place by an older worker giving to a younger worker rather than vice versa. One bee will beg from another by pushing its tongue towards their mouth parts. The giver bee will respond by opening her mandibles, regurgitating a drop of nectar and pushing it forward on her tongue. During trophallaxis the antennae of the two bees will touch (as you can see happening here), allowing them to pass on scent messages such as queen substance. It’s all about communication as well as getting a snack.

This plump larvae had been accidentally damaged as we inspected. I removed it from the hive but this worker continued to tend to it, licking it with her proboscis. I imagine it would have been giving off distress pheromones as it became exposed to colder air, in the same way as I squeal if the duvet gets pulled off me on a cold winter’s morning. You can see its segments – one of the signs of a healthy larvae.

Thanks Drew!

Queen news

On Monday our local bee inspector, Caroline Washington, visited our apiary for her routine annual inspection. On Monday evening Emma and I received this e-mail from Andy:

“when Caroline checked the hive, we found an emerged queen cell in the bottom corner of one frame. Caroline then spotted a queen. very dark coloured. the frame that we put in had not got q cells pulled out on it, indeed the section that was prepared for q cells were being repaired!

no sign of new eggs (the eggs we transferred had not developed, probably too cold and they’ve perished, but it will be very interesting to see what happens next!! maybe the new q. will fly, mate and be OK or you may prefer to buy one in so as to be sure and get them going again asap.”

So we have a new queen in there already! Sadly, she couldn’t have emerged into worse weather. After a winter so dry a hosepipe ban got put into place, it now won’t stop raining. Wet, windy, miserable…classic British April weather. And utterly useless for queen mating. And the forecast is…more rain. It seems relentless. Poor new queen.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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22 Responses to Bee macro shots by Drew Scott…and queen news!

  1. willowbatel says:

    Those pictures are incredible! Congratulations on the new queen as well!


  2. beenurse says:

    Impressive pictures! Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Wonderful images. My favorite is the last one.


  4. hencorner says:

    Hi Emily,
    Great info & fab pictures as always!

    Really glad to hear about your new queen…

    I’m quite worried about this weather, will the bees go out for food or use up their limited stores (esp post shook swarm/frame exchange)?



    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks Sara!

      The bees won’t have had many chances to get out for food with all this rain going on 😦
      So they will be relying on their stores. You could feed to be on the safe side. A 1:1 sugar syrup mix is generally recommended for spring, unless you are feeding after a shook-swarm/Bailey comb exchange, in which case use a 2:1 sugar-water mix. Dribble a little down from the feeder into the hive, using a stick or hive tool, so that they know it’s there. Sounds like yours are doing well so they should be fine.



  5. I don’t know, I may have to stop looking at your site as there is a danger I will develop a complex over all these excellent photos! Gald to hear about the queen; it’s good sign in terms of their knowing the right thing to do. I’m glad you and Sara mentioned something about the feeding as I am getting a bit concerned. So may look into sugar syrup this weekend. God knows we need the rain, but I remember that it was after such a rainy, cool spell last summer that the bee inspector found a few cells of chalk brood.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Ha ha don’t worry I’ll be back to posting my very amateur photos soon! Sugar syrup a good idea I think, the warm March will have encouraged colonies to expand and go through their stores quickly and now they can’t get out to collect more.


  6. Bean Karen says:

    Wonderful photography


  7. What amazing photos – enhanced by the observations. It is so weird looking after bees and feeling in ‘control’ in a sense – and then having the colony behaviour and the weather removing every ounce of control so all you can do is worry and hope.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Yes…I never checked the forecast so much as I do now I keep bees! With our electricity and heated houses, we must have lost some of the intensity of our former anxious connection with the weather, but having bees reminds us how much we are at its mercy.


  8. beatingthebounds says:

    Amazing images!
    I’m going to show my ignorance here – propolis?


    • Emily Heath says:

      Ah, I forget that not everyone knows about propolis! It’s a resinous substance collected by the bees from trees like poplars or conifers, among other sources (road tar in cities!). They can only collect it in warmish weather, as it goes hard in the cold. It has antibacterial properties, so they use it for jobs like filling in cracks and crevices, varnishing cells and embalming dead intruders too heavy to remove from the hive, like mice.

      It can also be used to reduce entrances for extra defence – see this great photo by @Loiscarter of what her bees got up to with it:


  9. Hello, I love your bee images. I have a favor to ask you. I’m a publisher, and I’m making a game for children that deals with bees and colony collapse. Our artist is looking for an image of a Queen Bee that he could use as a model for a drawing. Would you by chance have a macro image of a queen bee (or just a good shot of a queen) that he could use for this drawing. He’s from the U.K., coincidentally. Anyhow, if you do, please email me: Thanks!


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