Art and nature have always been my passions. The wild world around us is full of awesomeness which inspires my art. My recent commission gave me the opportunity to combine both my loves for the benefit of educating and inspiring the younger generation about our tiny, little heroes – BEES!
Bee…a Super Hero!
We are surrounded by a world that is by nature – wild, yet over the years we have tried to “tame” it and in doing so we have created an unseen war on the very critters that help provide a service to us for free. Bees and other insects pollinate the trees and plants that are our food source, without these tiny, little heroes we would be up the creek, so to speak. Numerous studies report the main factors behind their decline include: habitat changes wrought by humans, such as deforestation, and conversion of natural habitats for agriculture. Small farms, open pastures, hedgerows, and other areas where “weedy” plants like wildflowers can grow are rapidly diminishing as well. Along with agriculture comes the use of chemicals like herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and insecticides, all of which unsurprisingly, hurt non-target species such as our bees. Obviously, climate change undoubtedly plays a big role in this too, such as droughts, and other factors including invasive species, parasites, and diseases.
With all these attacks on our natural world, it is no wonder our poor bees and other insects are struggling to survive, and sadly some species have now been added to the endangered list. We must make changes to alter this, and education is the key, not just for the older generation but the for future generations too. My clients Worcestershire Wildlife Trust are working with schools to create a campaign that will help educate our children about these tiny, little heroes, and that’s where our “Bee..a Super Hero” project comes into play!
character design and illustration
I always find the work impossible until it’s done. Thankfully the brief from Worcestershire Wildlife Trust was factual, precise and quite clearly the team are on a mission – which makes my job as an Illustrator, a lot easier and it makes me feel thankful to know that there are people out there who are passionate about making a difference!
Character design and illustration for me, is based around the personality, distinguishable features and common behaviour of my subject, and being as this campaign is aimed at the 10 -13 yrs age group, we needed to make a visual impact that really captured the imagination of our audience, and what better way to do it than comic book art style with cartoon bees…So here’s the illustrations of each bee placed within a common bee habitat background, bullet point info to get the message across fast and clear, and comic book style flashes to show what makes our super heroes – super!
COMMON IN MAR - JUN
The Red mason bee is quite small, and commonly nests in hollow plant stems, in holes in cliffs, and in the crumbling mortar. It is a solitary bee so each female builds its own nest; she lines each ‘cell’ with mud, pollen and spit using her feet to “spin the mud”.
They will feed on many cultivated garden plants and spring flowering shrubs and trees, especially apples and pears. They also visit agricultural orchards and oilseed rape fields and are renowned for their efficiency as pollinators. Females are fairly easy to recognise. They have black-haired and box-shaped head with brown-haired thoraxes and orange-haired abdomens. The males are similar to females, although they are slimmer and have white hair on their faces. Their antennae are noticeably longer and can appear spindly. The orange on the abdomen can also be very bright.
ASHY MINING BEE
COMMON IN MAR - JUN
The Ashy mining bee is frequently found in various open sunny places, particularly on sites with sandy soil, including coastal areas, moorlands, river banks, open woodlands, as well as gardens and urban areas. Females create nests underground by excavating burrows in bare/sparsely vegetated earth, so they are well known for digging tunnels and moving earth.
They feed from a wide variety of spring flowers and shrubs, including buttercups, hawthorn, blackthorn, gorse and fruit trees. Females have a glossy black abdomen that can look blueish in the light. They have two distinct bands of light grey hair across the top and bottom of the thorax, and white hair on the face. Males have similar markings to females, although they are smaller and not quite as noticeable. They have more obvious light hairs along the side of the thorax and also at the top of the abdomen.
HAIRY FOOTED FLOWER BEE
COMMON IN FEB - MAR
The hairy footed flower bee species is an important pollinator for early spring flowers, particularly lungworts but also primrose, comfrey and dead-nettles. It feeds on the nectar using its long tongue. The female hairy-footed flower bee is black and furry, and resembles a small bumble bee. The males are rusty-brown and have long, orange hairs on their middle legs and feet which is where they get their name from.
Hairy-footed flower bees will nest in soft mortar in walls, or occasionally in soil. These bees have to be focused, curious and great at searching and finding the best place to build a nest as well as finding the best food supply due to emerging from their nest in February which is usually known for harsh weather such as snow and freezing temperatures. They are commonly seen in gardens in Southern England, as well as along roadside verges.
RED TAILED BUMBLEBEE
COMMON IN APRIL - NOV
The red-tailed bumblebee is a very common bumble bee, emerging early in the spring and feeding on flowers right through to the autumn. It can be found in gardens, farmland, woodland edges, hedgerows and heathland: anywhere there are flowers to feed on. It is a social bee with highly developed ways of communicating about the location and quality of food resources using a range of physical to chemical displays, so basically they “read thoughts” of each other.
These bees nest in old burrows, or under stones. As with other social insects, the queen emerges from hibernation in spring and starts the colony by laying a few eggs that hatch as workers; these workers tend the young and nest. Males emerge later and mate with new females who are prospective queens. Both the males and old queen die in the autumn, but the new queens hibernate.
Well that’s all for now folks, I hope you have enjoyed my artwork and learnt a thing or two along the way, but most of all, I hope that you have fallen in love with these tiny, little heroes as much as I have! If you would like to do your bit for our wildlife, then click on the Pledge a Patch logo below which will send you to the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s site where you can find loads of easy and effective ideas to help the wildlife in your area!