Keeping Up with the Bees with artist and scientist STEPHANIE DIX

Keeping Up with the Bees with artist and scientist STEPHANIE DIX

 

Stephanie Dix has a Degree in Biological Science and is an Artist.

Her heart is with the plants and insects, she pays deep attention and produces detailed watercolours that are both biologically correct and full of wonder.

 On Warn Marin / Western Port Bay and the Mornington Peninsula domesticated honey bees are supported for not only for the production of local honey but of course, to play their integral part in food crop production, but what do we know of our Native Bees? The wonderful blue banded bee, one of the many natives bees found in the area is the mascot of the Mornington Peninsula Shire, representing the shires ‘ Gardens for wildlife' program. 

So we ask to Stephanie to share some of her wonder for native bees.

S.D:  I have always had a great interest in insects ever since I was a child and have kept many different species of insects as pets. I didn't realise we had native bees in Australia until the beginning of the pandemic when I stumbled across an instagram post featuring the blue banded bee. I was so shocked at my ignorance that it prompted a deep dive into these magnificent creatures which had led to me trying to promote their existence and conservation as much as I can. 

 What makes our native bees so interesting to me is that they are so different to what we are generally taught to expect about bees.

 

S.D: Most of the bees that live in Victoria live a solitary existence and do not create hives or live in a community. An estimated 70% of native bees actually live underground. One of my favourite bees, Homalictus Urbanus, a tiny metallic green creature, can create burrows up to a metre in depth! 

 

 

S.D:  Spring and Summer are the best times to be out looking for native bees.They love plants that are prolific flowerers, so always take a closer look when you pass a plant which is pumping out their colourful displays.

I would also recommend taking a second look at tiny flying insects, many of our native bees are very small, sometimes only a couple of millimetres in length!

Bees always have two sets of wings where flies generally only have one, which is an easy way to tell if you're looking at a fly.

Bees and wasps are much harder to tell apart as they often mimic each others patterns or colours.


 
S.D:  There is a large Callistemon bush out the front of my house which attracts many types of pollinators. I am always impressed by the incredible variety in nature so this particular plant always brings me joy to think on how many birds, bees, flies and even possums visit it each year.
There is a particular bee in Western Australia called a Banksia bee which only visits a couple of species of banksia which are reliant on this species for pollination. It lacks the usual hairs on its body so it ingests the pollen and nectar and processes it by blowing what I have nicknamed 'honey bubbles', where it blows out these bright yellow bubbles then sucks them back in again. So weird and amazing. 

 

I don't think I have a favourite bee but I am particularly drawn to the metallic bees which are often a greenish or blueish hue. I just think the metallic colours are so beautiful, like tiny jewels flying through the air. I've mentioned the Homalictus and Banksia bee already which both fit this bill, another which I find very beautiful is the green Carpenter bee (Xylocopa aerata). Though it used to be found in Victoria, its range is now mostly restricted to NSW and Kangaroo Island in SA. 

 

     W.P.S.C: There is a quote from the Byzantinian hermit St.John Chrysostom;

 " The bee is more honoured than other animals, not because she labours, but because she labours for others." 

We think applying such words to Stephanie Dix and her labour of love is perfect because Stephanie, like the Apis Mellifera, finds gold and turns it to honey.

Thank you so much for your time Stephanie. 

All artworks featured are by Stephanie Dix. Buzz over to her instagram. You'll also  find her in the W.P.S.C collections.