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I Found a Bee

I Found a (dead) Bee, watercolor & rubber stamps
I Found a (dead) Bee, watercolor & rubber stamps

I found this pretty bumblebee in a parking lot yesterday. It was quite dead so I picked it up and carefully brought it home in a napkin to draw.  I set it on a few hydrangea blossoms under my magnifying lamp, trying to see all the details but it was really hard to differentiate all the various black fuzzy things. I guess a larger magnifier is needed.

I was thinking about saving it to study it some more, but when I researched preserving insect specimens I got a little creeped out. First you’re supposed to put it in a “relaxing chamber” if they have rigor mortis (ick, just typing that gives me the heebie jeebies) to soften them up a bit so you can spread them out and pin them on a board and then you have to keep them warm and dry (so they don’t get moldy I suppose).

For now I’ll put him (or is it a her?) back in its little jar and think some more about whether I’m really cut out for entomology vs. etymology which I love and is much less messy and gruesome.

  • Entomology: study of insects (from Greek entomos cut up) + logia “study of’” from logos “speech, oration, discourse, word”
  • Etymology: study of the history and origins of words (from Greek etumo “true sense” + logia (see above)

Yep, I guess I’d rather “cut up” words than insects! But if you have experience or knowledge about preserving dead bugs for drawing purposes, I’d love to hear your advice.

12 replies on “I Found a Bee”

That’s funny – I have both a bee and a beetle saved in the studio, just on a shelf, to draw. Haven’t been up there much lately – ihope they haven’t started to biodefrade…
I love what you’ve done here. Now I’m feeling a bit intimidated about doing my own drawing.


As a fellow painter and philologist, I love this post! The painting is an all-time favorite–the softness of the fuzzy back, the delicacy of the wings. It’s masterful, sensitively done and beautiful.


A couple of, hopefully helpful, pointers, Jana.
First, if you want to draw specimens, see if a local museum will allow you access to theirs. If not, the good ol’ internet has lots of artist-friendly pictures.
Bumbles bees do not have a lot of gooey innards so you can probably keep your fellow for a while. And, as you’re a watercolourist, fuzzy is ideal.
And next? Well, it’s personal…I was invited to dinner one evening and the hostess said:”I know you’ll like this man – he’s an etymologist and I know you love words!”
I spent the dinner with a chap who studied bugs and had absolutely no social skills!


Well, if you look at it one way, all art kind of pins things down, but if you look at it another, art preserves things–much better and certainly more pleasantly than with awful, awful chemicals. I always think those frames of pinned-down butterflies say more about the collector than the collection. This is one gorgeous painting! I never saw a better painting of a bee, or even one almost as good. What colors! What beautiful composition! How much the words add. I hope copies of this painting will someday be for sale.


I agree with lesliepaints, the wings are so gossamer… My mind tends to flit off topic, so I am focusing more on your petals, also, delicate and translucent. This is what I have been chasing, lately, and what has been eluding me– the ability to do watercolors of things like wings and petals that are glowing with a light shining through.


I’ve researched preserving insects, too. And I was willing to “relax” them, but found out I couldn’t buy the “relaxing fluid” because it’s a controlled substance…LOL!


What a delightful painting and the letters add to it also. Makes us all want to look intently at tiny things in nature.
Hey, your pics are slow coming up on my computer but it’s happening on my other posts as well. With three people using this computer for various searches, no wonder. Even Michael Jackson stuff this week!


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