Western Bumble Bee
March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
On our last artist residency day at the Royal BC Museum we visited the Entomology collection. This means insects, almost 250,000 of them, stored pinned in boxes, flat in envelopes, or in murky jars of alcohol waiting to be sorted and classified.
I asked Senior Collections Manager Claudia Copley about bees. Did you know there are 450 different kinds of bees in BC? I know, it kind of blew my mind too. This biodiversity gave me a sense of relief what with all the colony collapse and bee die offs happening around the world, but just because they are abundant doesn’t mean they aren’t in danger. The Western Bumble Bee, for example, used to be the most common bee in BC, and now its population has crashed.
Claudia was kind enough to pull out a few bee trays for me to take a look at. Below you’ll see a tray that shows some of the different kinds of bees found in BC. The middle photo is solely the Western Bumble bee: males, females and queens (the big ones). I got to pull one out, sticking the pin in a cork so I could give it a closer look.
The resulting animation is below. I decided to leave the pin and cork in, instead of just drawing the bee. Those elements, while visually interesting, keep the creature itself from coming to life in any way. This unintentionally speaks to the reality of the science that goes on behind the scenes at a natural history museum: Everything is dead. Bees are captured, killed (by exposure to nail polish remover), pinned and stored for future research. This research can help save them. An interesting paradox.