Honeybee Swarm studies

Liminal Swarm (study)
5.5 x 5.5 inches
2012
Private collection

It’s getting to be swarm season–that time of year when honeybee colonies that are thriving bust a move. The reigning queen departs from the old hive with about half of the colony, in search of a new home. Before she leaves, the workers who are staying behind start the process of raising a new queen, who will take over the reproductive powers of the hive upon reaching maturity.

In the meantime, the old queen sets out into the great unknown, and a shimmery, buzzy, beautiful chaos of bees fly through the air until they alight on something (often a tree, but sometimes a less convenient place). And there the swarm waits, while scout bees venture out to look for the perfect place to set up shop.

A swarm might look scary, but bees are actually quite docile at this point; they have no colony, no honey or baby bees to defend. They are focused on staying with their queen and finding a new place to live, and if a lucky beekeeper can coax them into a hive, she’s a got a free hive of bees.

I’ve seen several swarms over the years, and I think they are beautiful. The variety of shapes and sizes they come in, and the rich brown and golden yellow colors, are surprising; the warm, anticipatory energy that radiates from thousands of small creatures working in concert is a wonder. I have spent a lot of time trying to evoke the energy of a honeybee swarm in my artwork.

This Liminal Swarm study is one of many attempts; you can see others here, and here, and here.

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