Wildlife camera and drone operator Josh Forwood shot a fascinating series of close-up portraits of bees that “show how very different they all look.”
Forwood, whose work has appeared in Netflix, Disney, BBC, Nat Geo, and PBS, decided to shoot bee portraits while quarantining at home in Bristol after returning from a job. He decided to release his photos this week in celebration of World Bee Day.
There are over 20,000 known species of bees in the world, but what most people may not know is that bees largely don’t live in hives and colonies — it’s estimated that 90% of bees are solitary.
“Only 10% live in hives but that’s what we associate them with because most people’s primary segue into bees is through honey,” Forwood says.
And while many bees may look the same when they’re zipping around, looking at them from very up close reveals how different their faces can be.
“Solitary bees are more effective pollinators than even honey bees as they don’t use pollen sacks on their legs to store the pollen securely,” Forwood explains. “As a result (as you can see in some of these photos), they get covered in pollen making it more likely to transfer to different plants as they feed.”
To shoot this project, Forwood built a “bee hotel” containing bamboo tubes in his garden.
“Bee hotels can help offer a home for solitary bees in your area, and they are super easy to build,” says Forwood, who created the short video above to help people get started. “It’s super easy to make your very own bee hotel. A great project to do by yourself or with your kids over the weekend. Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, perhaps you have an exterior wall of your house you can fit it to, or maybe a friend would let you build one for their garden.”
The photos were shot using an old Panasonic GH5s, a 100mm Canon macro lens (mounted with a Metabones adapter), and a field monitor. Some of the portraits are single exposures, while others are focus stacked with multiple exposures for a greater depth of field.
“They are all taken with natural light,” Forwood says. “I almost never use lighting in my wildlife work, not only is it usually not viable anyway due to the unpredictable nature of the subject, it’s just not necessary a lot of the time. These guys were all sat in the bamboo tubes in one of my bee hotels, hence the quite dramatic lighting.”
Image credits: Photographs by Josh Forwood and used with permission