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Photographs of a honeybee through a scanning electron microscope reveal a realm of design and function that stretches our sense of scale and wonder to another order of magnitude and brings science to the threshold of art. With highly magnified views of the bee’s eyes, antennae, wings, legs, hair, and abdomen through the perspective of microscopy, these images present a new frontier right here in our everyday world. In the process of exploring a bee under a microscope, we enter a realm of design, structure and pattern at an astonishing level of detail; and as the magnifications increase, the integrity of form is continuously revealed. When our sense of scale has no frame of reference, the micro and macro worlds seem interchangeable. Our familiar context confounded, the interplay of observation and imagination can inspire new ideas, connections, and applications. Seeing what exists at the micro level naturally extends to a more sensitized awareness of what is all around us in the visible and invisible worlds. Considering the endless structures and forms that comprise a little bee at higher and higher magnifications, we get a hint of the amazing, unending complexity of nature all around us. This can be startling and inspiring, and my hope is to foster deeper curiosity, greater appreciation, awe and marvel for the honeybee. After looking up close at the honeybee, one can never think of this tiny amazing creature in the same way again.
Rose-Lynn Fisher Bee (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010).
Of the ten million or so different species of insects on our planet, none is more fascinating than the honeybee. one of the oldest forms of animal life still in existence from the Neolithic age, bees have been worshipped and mythologized since the beginning of human history. Known popularly for their industriousness (“as busy as a bee”) and highly valued for their role in agricultural pollination (every third bite we take depends on them), bees are now kept by a quarter-million beekeepers in the united states alone, and millions more around the world.
Honeybees were the first creatures examined by seventeenth-century scientists whose primitive microscopes suggested a complex system of construction. Now, magnified hundreds to thousands of times with a scanning electron microscope, honeybees appear as architectural masterpieces—an elegant fusion of form and function.
Melding art and science, photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher puts this modern tool to creative use in order to reveal the microscopic majesty of these natural wonders. BEE presents sixty astonishing photographs of honeybee anatomy in magnifications ranging from 10x to 5000x. rendered in stunning detail, Fisher’s photographs uncover the strange beauty of the honeybee’s pattern, form, and structure. Comprising 6,900 hexagonal lenses, their eyes resemble the structure of a honeycomb. the honeybee’s proboscis—a strawlike appendage used to suck nectar out of flowers, folds resembles a long, slender hairy tongue. Its six-legged exoskeleton is fuzzy with hairs that build up a static charge as the bee flies in order to electrically attract pollen. wings clasp together with tiny hooks and a double-edged stinger resembles a serrated hypodermic needle. the honeybee’s three pairs of segmented legs are a revelation, with their antennae cleaners, sharp-pointed claws, and baskets to carry pollen to the hive. these visual discoveries, made otherworldly through Fisher’s lens, expand the boundaries of our thinking about the natural world and stimulate our imaginations. BEE features a foreword by nature writer and New York Times editorial board member Verlyn Klinkenborg.