Bee Watching: 
Looking And Appreciating Is What Matters Most

Updated: 29th January 2021

I received a delightful email from Jonathan, and it really struck a chord with me!  He sent me this lovely photograph with a few words (that say much!) along with permission to include them on this website (- thank you Jonathan!).

Watching the bees....

Jonathan says:

"I take photos for identification. Sometimes, the artist in me takes over, and I can’t identify it. So, this photo has no species title, but I don’t really care. Bees are so much more than a species or a genus, they are an essential part to humans living on Earth."

I agree 100%!  Sometimes, trying to identify a bee gets in the way of simply appreciating it for its own bee-autiful creature-hood.   I noticed this myself, and these days, I never take a bee I.D. book out on walks with me, because frankly, it gets in the way – though I appreciate, many people do like to have books with them. 

a bee on an orange flowerBeautiful Bee - By Jonathan Enssle

I take a camera, and try to take snaps of different parts if I can – the face, legs, above the body for the markings.  But to a large extent, I sometimes don’t even bother with the camera.  There are times though, when even the camera can get in the way of appreciating something special (although yes, I am always delighted to be able to revisit the bee-spotting event via a photograph, and it’s nice to share with others, and it can sometimes help you take a closer look).

It’s actually wonderful simply to watch the bees, busy about their tasks.  Nature can hypnotize - I can gaze into our small wildlife pond until I get really stiff knees!

Bee watching - more important than labelling! 

I used to stress about identifying species as soon as possible, but I then realized that scientists sometimes change their minds about labels – and experts don’t always agree about species!

Nowadays I am far more relaxed.  Many times when I do take a photograph, I simultaneously feel that I don’t care about labelling it.  That said, I run a ‘bees’ website, and visitors want to see pictures, so I have to have them (and as stated, it is good to share), but that is why I have relatively few species pages, and those that I have are kept at a fairly low profile on my website – with the exception of more commonly seen species. I have many uncatalogued photographs waiting to be shared!

One of the problems is that there are many types of bees, and scientists have a habit of categorizing and labelling a bee, then changing their mind about it.  This has happened even with more common mason bee species in quite recent years.

Secondly, with the best will in the world, some details that distinguish one bee from another are so tiny, you might have to catch the bee and put it under a microscope in order to be certain.  In general, I’m against putting busy little creatures like bees under stress, for very little real purpose other than naming it – or saying “I’ve seen a such and such”.  I’d rather leave that to scientists engaged in a specific job.  I’ll continue with the looking.

Thirdly, experts don’t always agree on labels.  I once witnessed a social media conversation in which one post identified a bumble bee species.  A reply came from an expert that the I.D. was wrong, and that it was a different species.  The poster responded back that he had taken the trouble to have the bee identified by another expert!  So you see, it’s quite tricky!

Admiring bees and nature is surely what brings the most joy?

That’s my view anyway, especially for the amateur or simple nature lover. 

Imagine if you could look at a bee to the degree that you could feel a part of the nature all around you.  That all, including yourself, really is interconnected – not merely interdependent.  You could watch so intently, that the fragrance of the flower being visited, becomes stronger, and even the buzzing of the bee, and sound of the birds become louder. 

This is more pleasurable than focusing on what humans have called it.  A label is only a label, after all.  The bee is a living, breathing creature – and a beautiful one at that.