Super Slow-Motion Video Casts Honeybees in New Light

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Humans and honeybees live at different speeds. Not only is a bee's life usually briefer and busier, but she also experiences it in slow motion, letting her live every second a little longer than we do.

Our brains can't keep up with a honeybee's wings, for example, so her 200 flaps per second become a blur and "bzzz." But our brains have other talents, like inventing high-speed video cameras or ignoring the pain of beestings to record with such cameras inches away from an active honeybee hive.

The latter feat was recently accomplished by photographer Michael N. Sutton, who endured three stings while filming super high-speed video of honeybees at an apiary near his home in New Hampshire. The result, titled "Apis Mellifera: Honey Bee," reveals the insects at thousands of frames per second, capturing individual wing flaps and even the way a bee's feet gently sway as she flies.

The music might seem a little jarring at first — not to mention the diversity of fonts — but it's a nice change of pace from the more pensive classical music so often used in nature videos like these. Plus, combined with their undulating feet, it sort of makes it seem like the bees are dancing. (Bees actually do perform something known as a "waggle dance," but that's more complicated than this.)

Sutton didn't wear a beekeeping suit while shooting, he writes on Vimeo, fearing it would be too bulky and interfere with his camera work. That probably helped him maneuver and focus to get some of these impressive shots, but it also led to "a few moments that were intimidating," he adds, "when bees started landing on my arms, face, in my ear and on my eye."

The veteran photographer managed to keep his cool, though, and so did the bees — most of them, anyway. "I just stayed still and they went on their way with the exception of the three stings," Sutton writes. "Bees are actually quite docile and would prefer not to sting. They just want to make honey."

That's not all they make, of course. Aside from other products like royal jelly and propolis, they also make modern agriculture work by pollinating the plants that grow our crops. More than half the produce in many grocery stores, for example, wouldn't be there without pollination by bees.