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Hope & Bumblebees

Sometimes symbols of hope can be found in places that you don’t expect.

For long as I can remember ‘creepy crawlies’ have always fascinated me. As a little girl I used to watch ants march along the garden path to their nests, I had stick insects as pets and loved going on bug hunts (to be honest, I still like doing this given the chance.) There are some insects that I am scared of – although I am getting braver. Earwigs haven’t ever been one of my favourites: I once was served a sandwich in a café and an earwig was hiding in the lettuce, I think that traumatised me. I do, however, respect the care and attention that earwigs pay their young – they’re one of the 1% of insect species that show parental care. Some insects that other people find repulsive like the common little woodlouse, I have a lot of time for and consider them to be ‘my spiritual animal’ - we both like to seek shade whenever the sun comes out!

My favourite of them all are Bumblebees. When we moved into our house in 2016 our new garden was all lawn. My husband and I had no idea what we were going to do with it. Thankfully my dad is a talented gardener and suggested that we let wildflowers grow. We loved the idea especially if it meant that our garden would encourage insects – especially bees. A few years earlier I had gone to a bee-keeping training day organised by the local beekeepers association; it was so interesting. For many reasons I didn’t take up beekeeping, but I am the adoptive parent of a Queen Bee thanks to my lovely friend who recently organised this for me as a get-well-soon pressie.

As our garden grew, I noticed that we were getting lots of bumblebees in our garden. Lovely little black and yellow fur-balls flying around the different plants. They went crazy for the flowers that were growing – the Birds-Foot-Trefoil, the red clover, the geraniums, the lavender.

When I was going through cancer treatment in 2021, my garden gave me so much comfort. I struggled with gardening as I didn’t often have the energy to do as much as I wanted and when I could it was often at a much slower pace than before. It was then that I really started to watch bumblebees – a bit like how I used to love watching ants when I was little. I found it therapeutic watching these little creatures getting on with their lives, often oblivious to what I was doing. They would fly right next to me, land on the plants close to me and all that mattered to them was getting pollen and drinking nectar. When I sat and watched them, I found that I was distracted from all the ‘Melanoma Shizz’.

It was during this time that I started to take photographs of bumblebees. I had seen some beautiful close-up (or macro) photographs of bumblebees on Instagram. So, for my birthday that year my husband bought me a lens to fix onto my phone so I could also take macro photographs of bumblebees. It became a daily ritual – I’d go out into the garden in the early evening, when the sun was less strong, and spend time taking photographs of bumblebees and occasionally other insects (yes, even earwigs!)

The macro-lens has really gave me the chance to see the world of the little bumblebees in so much detail. I can see close-up how they fly into the trumpets of comfrey flowers, how they climb into geraniums like gymnasts and how they carry little yellow clumps of pollen on their hairy legs. I have to be so still as I focus in on them - a quick movement and they will fly away, or they raise a leg to warn me that they aren't happy. During these photography sessions, I'm so busy focusing in on these little creatures I often forget everything else – it feels like everything else that was going on in my life doesn't matter and all I really care is was getting the perfect photograph or video of a little bumblebee.

Watching them in their world has made me realise that despite my own problems, the world carries on and that gives me comfort. It may seem strange, and I can’t quite describe it, but it makes me feel part of something bigger, that I'm just one little part of things. I remember being upset that first autumn when the weather turned cooler and the last of the autumn asters died, leaving no more flowers for the bees to visit. But, the following spring, the flowers grew again and by the summer the garden was full of bumblebees again. When I was going through treatment that have me so much hope.

I’ll be honest, because it is important to be so, I haven’t taken as many photographs of bees this year as I had hoped. The rainy July weather we have had hasn’t helped but mainly it’s because over these last couple of months I have been struggling mentally with all I have been through over the last year or so. Melanoma and the treatment for it has affected me physically and mentally and there are times when it just isn’t possible to be positive, when you have to admit to yourself that life has been and continues to be really tough. But writing this little blog about bees at this point in time has actually helped me remember why I found bees so therapeutic. So, maybe later, when the sun is less strong, I’ll get my macro lens out and spend a little bit of time amongst the bumblebees...

If you look on my Instagram page, you will find lots of photographs and videos of bumblebees, I hope you like them!


Sep 06, 2023

Bee-utifully written. The photos on Instagram are amazing. Love the colour, detail and vibrancy of the bee photos. keep writing Charlotte. I always look forward to your blog.


Gilli Fowler
Gilli Fowler
Sep 06, 2023

It think your bee photography is lovely form of mindfulness: intense focus on what is happening in the moment to the exclusion of all other feelings and thoughts. I've never been fond of earwigs I have to admit after my Mum gave me childhood nightmares telling me how they could crawl into your ears while you slept!


Sep 06, 2023

Another wonderful piece of hope Charlotte. Have you read ‘The Bees’ (Laline Paull). and ’The Secret Life of Bees’, (Sue Monk Kidd), both novels that also teach loads about bees?

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