If youve read my other posts on shooting insects (Shooting Dragonflies: Link
and Shooting Butterflies: Link
) then you can photograph the majority of the critters out there. But there are a few more useful tips that I can give you for shooting bees that are different than photographing other creatures so Im listing them here.
Bees feed in a predictable pattern, both in the area that they are in and on the flowers that they get nectar from. If you see a bee feeding on a flower and it takes off odds are it will be back later (or one just like it). Honey bees communicate the location of the food sources that they discover, so if there is a flower that they like theyll tell the hive where to find it. Bees feed on different flowers in different ways; some flowers are shallow and its easy for the bee to feed from it maybe theyll only stay a second or two. Other flowers require the bee to go deep to get the nectar out, so theyll stay in the flower longer and youll have a better chance of getting the image you want
Another thing to watch for is that bees move around a flower in a predictable way. I often frame the image and simply wait for the critter to get into the picture. The photo Ive included with this post is a prime example all I had to do is wait for the bee to move into the area I wanted it in and then press the shutter release. It was hot that day, the bees were very active, and yet I got a clear shot at twice life size. Easy, once you know what to look for
A lot of insects, bees included, will occasionally stop to clean themselves. So if you see a bee that's actively feeding, but moving too fast to photograph, watch it for a while and see if it stops to clean the nectar from its legs or antenna.
All insects get a little lethargic when the temperature rapidly drops, and bees seem to have a habit of getting caught out in the open when spring or fall storms roll in. Before, or after, it rains look for bees that have been slowed down by the changing weather so you can photograph them when they are barely moving. The early spring is a stop and go environment for bees one minute they have enough heat to fuel their metabolism and the next the sun is behind the clouds and they get lethargic. I shot a lot of the Miner Bees in my gallery under just those conditions.
If you are getting frustrated by fast moving bees put a little honey in an area where they are feeding and photograph them while they eat. One word of warning: Use a little bit of honey putting a lot of it down wont attract bees any faster than using a little, but you might empty out an entire bee hive if you use a lot of honey at once
On hot days put out a little water in a shallow dark colored saucer and photograph bees that stop for a drink.
Some bees are very aggressive and if they start acting threatening then leave them alone. Ive had some solitary bees go from casually feeding to being in my face faster than you can snap your fingers, and theyve chased me out of an area on more than one occasion. They key to not getting stung is to not push them if the bee wants you to leave then leave
Last, but not least, never swat a bee that lands on you. Most of the time it's just stopping to take a breather and the bee has no intention of stinging you. Ive had them land in my hair and all I had to do was shake my head to get them out. If you take a swing at one and miss odds are it will come back at you, and this time you will get stung. Honey bees not only communicate the location of food sources, but they can also tell the hive where to find that irritating photographer