Pollinators in Danger

My drawing of a Western Bumblebee. Reference photo by Stephen Ausmus

Last year I was approached over the Christmas holidays to produce some art centred around pollinators that are threatened by climate change and human activity. While I was aware that pollinators and bees in particular have been declining in numbers, I didn’t know which bees have been most affected. I assumed that honeybees, the most well known type of bee, were primarily the ones in trouble. 

A rusty-patched bumblebee. Isn’t he cute?? Reference photo by USFWS Midwest Region

It turns out there’s lots of different types of bees, and though honeybees are affected by climate change and pesticide use, their status as domestic bees means human intervention can help mitigate these factors. Wild bees are much more at risk, and I was asked to draw some bumblebees whose numbers have been declining to help call attention to the plight of less well-known species. 

The three bees are the Rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), which is endangered, the Yellow banded bumblebee (Bombus terricola), which is listed as a species of special concern, and the Western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis), which is listed as threatened.

And finally the yellow banded bumblebee! Reference photo by Kent McFarland

Drawing these three bees was a ton of fun, and something I have quite a bit of practice doing thanks to my work drawing for Guelph Bug Day. One tip I have for drawing bees in coloured pencil is to indent the paper for the thin hair lines. The coloured pencil won’t fill in the indents, giving the option of super fine hairs with minimal effort. I use the tip of a metal mechanical pencil for the indents, because that’s what I have available. 

I think the most challenging parts of these pieces were the flowers, as I don’t have a ton of practice doing floral art. But it is always a pleasure to work in colours that are different from the browns and blacks that I normally use in pet portrait art. And I’m very happy with how they turned out! Which bee is your favourite? 

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