The Bee’s Knees

In her new book, BEE, photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher provides a larger than life look at a tiny yet exemplary creature. BEE illustrates the beauty at the intersection of art and science. Using a scanning electron microscope, the author provides the reader a complete anatomical study of these magnificent creatures, each one a work of art to behold.

The plates are arranged in sections: antenna, body, eye, leg, proboscis, and wing. The levels of magnifications, which range from 10x to 5000x, and a clear explanation of the function of each body part accompany each photograph. At first glance, many of the images appear to be abstract studies of plant or sea life. Is the viewer looking at a Venus fly trap or perhaps a sea anemone?

Each photograph explains how every minute part of a bee’s body performs an important function. For example, there’s a photograph of the elliptical dome-like surface of the honeybee’s eye, which is magnified 190x. What do all of these tiny hairs and hexagons do exactly?

Well, as the author explains, honeybees uses these to “perceive the range of color spectrum from yellow to ultraviolet light; red is perceived as black. Ultraviolet light reveals patterns, contracts, and markings in flowers that are imperceptible to humans, but visible and attractive to the honeybee, informing her where to land and where to find nectar and pollen.” 

“Each worker’s compound eye comprises about 6,900 hexagonal, faceted lenses, and each lens captures light from its own angle. Combining visual information from each tiny eye, forms are perceived as a mosaic of dots rather than with fine detail. Bee vision is better suited to perceiving light and motion than form.”

As a body of work, BEE serves to reinforce the principal that form is joined with function: “Honeybees live in a peaceful society whose industries benefit life. How can we emulate their example of harmlessness and beauty? For me, the honeybee symbolizes and embodies a congruency of form and function, vision and action, sprit and matter, all being of the same essence.”

The author’s fascination with “our most important pollinator” is evident in every photograph and, as result of Ms. Fisher’s awe, what could have been presented as dry scientific data becomes a wondrous exploration of the natural world.

Explore the world of bees.

This guest post is Susan Apollonio, Marketing Manager, ASLA. Susan and her family have an obsession with bees.

Image credits: BEE / Princeton Architectural Press 2012 (1) Sabine 15 x, (2) eye pollen 800x, (3-4) eye, (5) proboscis  

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