Stone and Bee

I am delighted to say the hairy footed flower bees are back! They have survived the winter in the strawberry pot for the 3rd year.
A lucky shot of the male with his gorgeous hairy feet. He was sleeping in the sun by the back door. The little black females are around too very noisy and very busy. Many other bees are out and about. I just spotted a Tawny mining bee very new and very russet red gorgeous. It is lovely to see them.

Anthophora plumipes   The Hairy Footed Flower Bee.

And in the last two weeks I have been on a couple of short courses. A very good lino workshop about 4 colour overprinting with Kevin Holdaway and last weekend an egg tempera workshop at Wysing Arts with Sohelia Sokhanvari.  Both were excellent. Many years ago egg tempera and pen and ink were my favourite media. Then commercial life got in the way. But going back to this again I realise how much I really love working with egg and pigments.. Hmmm .. yes .. I may well do some more.

We also experimented with making various kinds of inks. What I like so much about all this is that the materials are quite humble and simple. You can make paints and inks from many things found around the house and garden. These are a few comparisons of the different mixtures, looking at  flow, density, wetting, granulation,etc etc
IMG_2761     spr-ink

I started the tempera study of the stone on the last afternoon of the class and finished it at home today. Just 5 pigments and one egg yolk and some water .. and a 00 brush.



Almost finished study 4 x 2.5”…  not quite there but they never are.

What you can’t see of course it the beautiful sheen that the egg binder gives and the complex surface. It is really nice stuff to work with! Back to thesis tomorrow…

Back to the Bees… and A Book with Me in it..

I said earlier this month that I would be getting back to the bee paintings and the first is going to be the lovely Bombus ruderatus for the Beautiful Beasts blog.  Bombus ruderatus: the Large Garden (or Ruderal) Bumble bee This bee has a special significance for me as the only time I have ever seen one, to my knowledge, was in my father’s  garden.  I had seen a big all black “something” flying around the yellow archangel for a couple of days and then luckily one day I had my camera. If it had been the more usual striped  variety I would probably not have noticed it. You can see more about this bee on my post “A Fenland Bee” here.

It is also the Iconic Bee for the East Midlands so a perfect Fenland “Beautiful Beast” and coincidently I thought I saw one on Sunday at the Holme Fen visitor info stop. There is a wonderful large planting of white and red dead nettle by the notifications boards which is a favourite flower for these long faced, long tongued bees. So far I am just making some notes, rough ideas and colour sketches.

b-rud-notes-1-bg     b-rud1-bg

The all black version, which is the one I will be painting is officially called Bombus ruderatus var.harrisellus


Habitat sketch from Holme Fen and, yes the unexpected Highland cattle are there  to help manage the grass land. Thinking about the bees in the white dead nettle.


And as I saw the big black bee in Dad’s garden on the yellow lamium


These small sketches are about 5 x4 inches

In the Garden

I was also so very pleased to see for the first time this year the gorgeous Tawny Mining bee.My photo does not do justice to the prettiness of this little bee with her beautiful foxy two tone colours. I had rescued her from a spider’s web, she is just taking a moment on my hand to regain her composure.

tawny-m-bee     hairy-f-fB-f-bg

And also, I have, at last, seen the Hairy Footed flower bees, both male and female on the pulmonaria.

A Book with Me in It!

It’s a big thank you to lovely, bee friendly, Andrew Tyzak for asking me to contribute to his wonderful book. “Drawing and Painting Insects”

Andrew draws and paints and makes exquisite prints of insects and runs the website Bees in Art. I am honoured to be alongside such high quality artists and at a generous 200 pages, the book is packed with images of insects of all kinds, in painting drawing and prints. There is also lots of info on how to go about painting and drawing these fascinating creatures. I was particularly delighted to see my Great Yellow Bumble Bee on the cover!

Drawing-insects-bg      me-and-bees-2-bg

About me and the bees


Some step by steps of my work….

The book is available from all good bookshops! First the book, next the film ….:)

The Boys are Back

I had a really lovely day today with a few of my group at Easton Walled Gardens. The sun shone and everything is growing. I came home and went out into the Garden and for the first time this year saw my bee house springing into life. Just a few beautifully coloured male Mason bees coming in and out of the tubes. Their newly hatched colour glow. I am so very pleased to see them.


Mason Bee in……


Mason Bee peeping out, his distinctive white moustache clearly visible.

And to add to that a sighting of foxy little female Tawny Mining bee prospecting around the base of the lavender and a few days ago I saw another beautiful dark russet and black bee which I now think just might be an Osmia cornuta… no photos yet..

And of course having seen the male Hairy Footed Flower bee.. the females have arrived they have to be one of my very favourite bees. What busy and purposeful girls they are. Not easy to photograph as they barely stop at each flower.


Hopefully better photos of all to come. But my joy is unconfined to see them back! Wild things …you make my heart sing! 🙂

Yes! A Hairy Footed Flower bee, BBKA and more bees

A couple of days ago I saw my very first male Hairy Footed Flower Bee of this year.. and actually the first in this garden. Last year I bought some pulmonaria, one of the HFFB’s favourite flowers.

This year it struggled into bloom and sure enough here comes this very lovely little bee, darting in with his characteristic flight and unmistakable high pitched buzz. This evening he was back and I rushed to get my camera and luckily was able to get a couple of shots. It was 5.30 pm.
You can see his handsome white moustache and in the second shot his white face.


I wonder if the colony in the strawberry pot survived the winter and I look forward to seeing the smart females, all black with ginger legs, whose flight is so purposeful and who look like little black bombs as they zigzag from flower to flower.

Paint a Bee Workshop for the BBKA

Last weekend I was at Harper Adams Agricultural University for the British Beekeepers Association annual conference. It’s a huge event with lectures and demos and  teaching. I was there to give  2 “Paint a Bee “workshops. Bees are really not the easiest things to paint, and it was wonderful to have 2 fully subscribed classes. Thanks to all who came and made the day so enjoyable.


I talked to many beekeepers, some with just one or two hives and some with hundreds. It was fascinating to hear about their experiences successes and failures. They are a welcoming and inclusive bunch of people. We are lucky to have them. How well the bees came through this bad winter is not yet known. I think many of them are just keeping everything crossed!

More Bees Here in the Empty Garden I have not yet seen a honey bee but I am pleased to report lots of big Bombus terrestris queens. Today I also saw a beautiful Bombus pratorum queen and the funny little bee fly.

The colours of the new queens are so vivid. At the weekend though I found a sad and bedraggled bee struggling to keep going. She was just about moving but a long way from any food. It had been raining and was very windy which must be tough conditions for bees.
The only thing I had in bloom then was a patch of winter heather and that’s where I put her, after  warming her up on my hand. Bees are often reluctant to leave a safe warm hand but she had to go and get some fuel. It was nice to watch her finding food and eventually being able to fly away. I wish her well.

bee on my hand bg

There is definitely a bit of an Ahhhh factor to this photo! I hope all your bees are beginning to buzz wherever you are.

Spring is here and so are the Hairy Footed Flower Bees!

At last there has been sun and warmth. It has felt a long time coming, but over these last few weeks I have been able to snatch a minute or two to appreciate the beauty of spring, the light green mist of new shoots on the bare branches and the sumptuous snowy flower laden branches of the blackthorn.

I have been able to bring armfuls of white sheets in from the line, smelling of sun and light ( a rare thing to do in the USA) and at last, I have seen more bees.

Male hairy footed flower bees everywhere! Just everywhere. What a huge pleasure it is for me to be able to see them whizzing about. They have a very distinctive high pitched sound and adopt a very characteristic pose when resting on a leaf or stone, their gorgeously fringed legs outspread to the side.

Anthophora plumipes male on the elaeagnus.

I stood for an hour watching them. The only chance I had to photograph them was when they paused to rest on the elaeagnus. They seemed to love the big flat sunny leaves but only stopped for a very short time before rushing off again chasing each other round and round the bush.

They are not easy to catch with my slow camera and slower operator! What I did notice was how they would check me out, hovering just inches above my head, looking directly at me. before whizzing off again. You can see their yellow faces. Really quite delightful!

And today in the village on some pink pulmonaria, I saw the females, smart little black bombs with ginger legs. Chris took a couple of long shots and managed to catch this little bee with her extraordinarily long tongue unfurled. Interestingly she seems to be holding her tongue with her front legs.. as if steadying her aim and approach.

HFFB tongue

And landed, head in a flower


Spring is truly here. The evenings are light and blackbirds fill the dawn with song.

Hairy Footed Flower Bee.. yet again..Vive la Difference!

To have the Hairy Footed Flower bee  Anthophora plumipes in the set of British Bees and not include those hairy feet would be just confusing, so here is the male, resplendent with those long silky  hairs on his middle leg.

I first described this chunky little bee with his roman nose and big blue eyes back in November for Deborah’s bee set here. This one is to be the companion to the stylish black female which I have already painted ( see here and below).
This is the only species of bee so far where I have drawn both the male and female and they couldn’t be more different. She is black with orange legs and he is brownish with the yellow face roman nose and of course the long hairs which the female does not have.

hhfb sm    hairy footed flower beesm

Female and Male Anthophora plumipes.

Why some male and female bees are so very different in colour I do not know. I have tried to find out, but without much success so I hope to get some answers when I meet up with bee specialists in June. I did read something that seemed to infer an ingenious plan on the part of flowers to aid their own pollination.
The variation  between male and female is referred to a sexual dimorphism, with the colour pattern difference specifically called sexual dichromatism.
There are quite a few bees who fall into this category. One of the most striking must be the stunning USA Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, whose male is a huge furry teddy bear of a bee  and whose female is black and shiny.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA     587px-Valleycarpenterbee2 T

he Valley Carpenter bee male and female from Wiki photographer Calibas A UK bee is Andrena fulva  where the female is the showy one.

8883967_d98b94c5a3_o     Andrena_fulva01

Male Photo Nigel Jones from Tree Of Life  and female,  photo Jeffdelonge Wiki

It all goes to make bee identification more fascinating and just a little bit more tricky!

Flowers for the Flower bee In the UK you can find the Hairy Footed Flower Bee hanging around the labiates (the dead nettles).
The males will be waiting for females to show up and  the hairy feet, if you are wondering, are thought to be something to do with courtship, read more here.
Blackbird in her excellent blog has some wonderful photos and HFFB  observations here and a great piece about which flowers to plant to  attract these really delightful bees here, which include Comfrey, Tree Germander, Primroses, Rosemary, Grape Hyacinths and Cowslips.

I have provided my bee with a leaf of the beautiful Yellow Archangel for his female-spotting platform..


Hairy Footed Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes and Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon Mint Family.

flowerbee sm

Watercolour and pencil on Arches HP approx 8 x 8 inches

Anthophora plumipes. More Hairy Footing in the Spring Garden.

I am revisiting the delightful Hairy Footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes which I drew before back in November here. I wrote quite a bit about these funny little bees then and so won’t repeat myself, but here from the Natural History Museum identification sheet is a nice short description

“Large, long-tongued species resembling a small bumblebee; body length 14-17 mm. Female has body hair entirely black, outer surface of hind leg with golden hairs; body hair of male mainly a rich brown (face bright yellow). Common in gardens where it mainly visits deep-throated flowers. Cell walls consist of a conglomeration of fine particles of soil or mortar which are probably bound together by a secretion from an abdominal gland. This bee flies, with a shrill hum, from mid March to the end of May, rarely June. It is distributed throughout much of England and Wales (especially in the south); absent Scotland and Ireland.”

My real dilemma was which one to draw, the male or the female. I drew the male before because he is the one with the bizarre and wonderful feathery feet, lovely yellow markings on the face and a Roman nose. Below is a photo of the male, you can see the feathers on his front legs.


Male Anthophora plumipes , Photo Cosmin Manci from

The female could not be more different, they are mostly black and shaped like a little bomb. But they are really super sweet, whizzing around with their bright, ginger coloured legs.
They are early bees and so can be seen foraging on primroses, and a absolute favourite spring flower of mine, cowslips.

Here is a great photo from Brian Stones blog, The Natural Stone. In the post “Plenty in the Garden” from April 2005 a little female Anthophora is making, just as you would expect, a beeline, for the cowslips. This post also has two lovely frogs.. I do hope one day I get to paint some frogs .. Brian’s blog is full of wonderful photos and observations, I did particularly like the delightful bee flies here.


The Anthophora bees also like lungworts,or pulmonarias which have the same long tubular shaped flowers as the cowslips, whose deeply hidden nectar is easy for these long tongued species to access.


Beautiful pink and violet Pulmonaria, photo from “Sad” at Shutterstock here

If you would like to attract these super bees to your garden do go and read Blackbird’s post Flower Bee Garden.. April 2009 from her excellent Bugblog which I quoted from on the last post.

You will find a list of flowers that will have Hairy Footed Flower bees frolicking in your garden. What could be nicer?


The Painting

I just couldn’t decide between the wonderful spotted leaves of the lungworts or my favourite cowslips.

antho sketch

I left it, until I had no more time to decide and went for the cowslip flowers. The spotted leaves might just have been a bit too busy and distracting…. but I might just have to paint that little male bee again, perhaps displaying those lovely hairy feet on a nice spotted Pulmonaria leaf.

anthph sketch


Anthophora plumipes, The Female Hairy Footed Flower Bee and Cowslip.


I know the scientists may shrink in horror at the description, but this bee is just “too cute” for words!!
Watercolour and Pencil on Arches HP .. size approx 7×7 inches.

The Hairy Footed Flower Bee.. yes really..

If ever a bee belonged in the world of the fairies this is it. The amazing Hairy Footed Flower Bee. I have painted the male, with its plumed feathery feet, its Roman nose and its equally endearing Latin name, Anthophora plumipes.

I had not really given much thought to bees’ feet before I started this project but they are wonderful things. See the plumes on the second leg..


photo by Jeffdelonge for Wikipedia here

Anthophora is another large bee genus with over 450 species worldwide. They vary enormously. Some are known as digger or mason bees and make wonderful elaborate homes with mud.
This particular species is an early April bee and particularly long tongued, so able to make the most of tubular flowers such as the spring-flowering Lungwort, Pulmonaria, Comfrey, Symphytum, Cowslips, and the dead nettle family Lamium.

Adrian Knowles, Hymenoptera Recorder for the Suffolk Nature Society has this to say:

“At about 13mm long they are a little smaller than most bumblebees and they fly with very quick wings in a swift and darting flight, frequently hovering in front of flowers and so have a rather different “jizz” to their larger relatives. They are perhaps more reminiscent of rotund hairy hoverflies in their behaviour.
They nest in tunnels excavated in steep, dry soil banks and .occasionally within the crumbling mortar of old masonry, as do several other solitary bees.
Amazingly, they emerge from their pupae in late summer but remain in their sealed nest cells until the following spring – about 6 months spent as an adult just standing still!
The females are all black, with yellow/orange hairs on her hind legs (you may need to look carefully to avoid confusion with bees bearing yellow pollen on their hind legs).
The males are strikingly different, with dark orange/brown hairs towards the front of their bodies, giving way to black hairs anteriorly. “ ………
not forgetting those hairy feet!

from Suffolk’ s Box Valley (UK) Nature Website here which will also take you to some interesting books on Suffolk’s Natural History.

The reason for the extravagant hairiness is, of course all to do courtship.
If you are a female Hairy Footed Flower Bee (but without the hairy feet as the females don’t have them), I guess you will appreciate the tender ministrations of your beau as he wafts his hairy feet over your antennae, transferring his own brand of irresistible aftershave as he does.
It’s not quite my idea of romance, but then I am not a bee …yet. Gordon Ramel of the excellent Gordon’s Solitary Bee Pages has another theory …
As the females are notoriously skittish, it is possible that the male covers his mate’s eyes with those hairy feet to calm her down, (or to knock her out with that aftershave)
He tells us more about this game little bee

“The males are territorial and tend to guard a home range which contains either, the sorts of flowers the females like to visit, or a site suitable for nesting.
The male patrols around his home range spending time at each patch of flowers and or nest site chasing off intruders. He is very serious about this and defends his chosen resources from all comers whether they are a competing male bee or not.
To drive intruders away from his range he accelerates straight at them very quickly and rams them with his head, he can knock out insects much larger than himself this way”

You will also find links to some very good illustrations on this page, and Gordon’s Earthlife site is fun and informative and about much more than just bees.

Here is a photo of the lovely black female Hairy Footed Flower Bee with her orange coloured back legs..

a plumipes female

The gorgeous female HFFB by rybaros from a Polish entomological site which has excellent insect photos here

This particular species Anthophora plumipes, is most common in the Europe but according to the excellent Discover Life site, after introduction in Maryland they can now be found throughout the Washington DC region.

Look out for them if you live in this area. I spent far too long researching and reading about these bees. Sometimes it takes a long time to collect even a small amount of accurate information. I am going to put a list of useful bee sites on the sidebar soon.

However deciding how to draw this bee was not too difficult. Of course I had to include the feet, that Roman nose and it does have lovely big eyes. I am also getting a little more familiar with bee anatomy so I made a couple of quick sketches just to get the pose right and then got on with the painting.


anthophora sketches2


Bee No 9: The Hairy Footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes

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