This project was funded by Creative Black Country and was in collaboration with Wildside Activity Centre, fine artist Susan Brisco and textiles artist Elise Stewart. The aim of the project was to connect the public with nature and the honey bee through a creative response.

Microscope Drawing  of honey bee specimen

Artist Statement

The Beyondness of Bee – where science meets art to look beyond the surface to see the powerful aesthetics of the microscopic world of bees.

The Beyondness of Bees project took us beyond the familiar into the magnified world of Honey Bees. This ‘unseen’ exploration revealed many surprises such as incredibly hairy bee bodies and fascinating details of the compound eye made up of hundreds of lens facets responsible for giving the bee remarkable vision for spotting flowers.

The wings were spectacular to observe with their delicate translucent architectures and we managed to glimpse the tiny hooks that linked wings in flight to give greater surface area.  And of course, evident throughout was the distinctive bee-striped detail that acts as warnings to predators or honey robbers. These surprise wonder observations became inspiration for a   thrilling creative response through drawing, thread and stitch.

As scientists, whole honey bee specimens were observed using a light microscope at magnifications of 40 X and 100X,  to reveal intriguing abstracted shapes and forms, line and colour. A   series of water colour drawings emerged, inspired from the circular field-of-view vision made directly from the microscope eye-piece.  The spontaneity of mark making was translated into various forms of stitch ranging from back stitch, seed stitch, French knots, Mammoth knots, running stitch and many more to create stunning embroideries.

Drawing with thread featured throughout the exhibition with  honeycomb hives and threaded drawings of bees and a fascinating creative response to ultra-violet bee vision.

Ultimately, a poetic resonance of honey bees emerged with magnified, abstracted integrity and wonder.   

Array of Microscope drawings of honey bee specimens –
taken directly from the eye piece of the microscope
Drawing with thread – Honey bee featuring pollen basket

Honey bee – thread drawings

Bee vision in ultra violet: Drawings with fluorescence

Bee vision

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Bees base their colour vision on ultra violet light, blues and greens. Reds appear as black to a bee. They can, however see ‘reddish’ wavelengths such as yellow and orange. Scientists say that purple, blue and violet flowers are the most likely colours to attract bees.

Flowers cleverly target their areas of nectar by using nectar bullseyes and nectar guides that bees can detect in ultra violet light.

The light boxes play with notions of a different type of vision using phosphorescence. The paint glows when charged with ultraviolet light or white light and the glow approaches that of ultraviolet vision……alluding to the way a bee sees the world.

Thread drawing :Hive
Installation View – Poly Tunnel
Embroideries inspired from the microscope drawings of honey bee specimens from the eye piece