Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to paint a variety of animals for interpretive signs at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Below is my most recent illustration for that client:  An Eastern Bumblebee worker.

Illustration of Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens, © Emily S. Damstra

Illustration of Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens, © Emily S. Damstra

Fortuitously, the Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) is a local species and my client gave me this assignment during a season (August) when I would be able to easily find some specimens. Though I’m certainly no bee expert, it wasn’t difficult to figure out how to distinguish the Eastern Bumblebee from other local species. A bit of research also informed me that I could easily spot a worker bee (as opposed to a male or a queen) by looking for the balls of pollen the workers store in the “baskets” on their hind legs. I netted a few, put them in the freezer, and then carefully mounted them in relatively life-like positions using pins to hold each leg in place while the bees dried. With the help of a macro lens and a microscope, I was able to see the bees in great detail. After I finished the illustration, I properly labeled the specimens and they now reside in my small insect collection.

To be able to closely examine and manipulate my subject is a real treat and not something I can do with, for example, a polar bear, an ancient village, or a placoderm!

I used gouache to paint this bee.


Karen's Nature Art

Beautiful job, Emily! Bees are cool, aren’t they? Have you seen an orange-banded bumblebee? Saw one in Maine and wished I could have looked at it longer…


Thanks Karen! Yes, bees are wonderful. I haven’t seen an orange-banded bumblebee before, but I just googled it and they are striking!

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