I look to promote the health and safety of Apis mellifera by exploring their brief, magnificent lives and illustrating beekeeper management practices to help continue on their legacy.

The thesis I've written investigates methods of illustrating proper beekeeper management in order to promote the health and protection of the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera), as a response to the loss of colonies. Honey bees have played an inextricable part in human societal development and the recent increase in issues leading to colony death has put honey bees, economy and agriculture at risk. Honey bees are primary pollinators of many crops and wildflowers, and pollination is threatened as honey bee colonies decline (Requier, et al., 2015).

This thesis illustrates the problems concerning honey bee colony death, but focuses on developing images for hobby beekeepers, as well as nature enthusiasts interested in starting beekeeping or finding other ways of being involved in alleviating the challenging issue of honey bee health. The study thereby magnifies the social value of the project by broadening awareness and offering viable solutions. This means that alongside personal research and the external advisor’s provided expertise, this thesis attempts to answer the questions “Which visual approach and strategies can be used to explain the details and importance of honey bee colony death, while compensating for what is lacking in current resources?” and “How can proper beekeeping practices that promote pollinator health and protection best be taught and encouraged through visual education?” 

The Western Honey Bee 

Apis mellifera

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Days 1-3: EGG ---- Days 4-9: LARVA ---- Days 10-12: CAPPED LARVA ---- Days 13-18: PREPUPA ---- Days 19-23: PUPA ---- Day 24: MATURE BEE

With my illustration, I intended to show each major stage of honey bee development naturalistically and without excess information, while making it easily readable and directly transferable to a real life situation, including the beekeeper’s perspective. In addition, within these sensory-indulgent, I find it important for the illustrations I create to represent the true colors, textures, forms and transparencies of the developing brood, not only for the sake of naturalism, but also to avoid confusion with what normal brood look like in comparison to brood infected with fungi and disease

Comb Cell Identification

One will not find every cell content possibility in the same frame, so many identification aids are not very comprehensive and may just show 2 or 3 potential contents in each image.  For identification ease, I found it important to show this information in a complete manner.  More importantly, I believe that in order to promote colony health, it is important to describe what healthy forage and brood comb look like in direct comparison to the unhealthy potentials.  This is not an overall pattern of health, but includes different specific viruses that may affect the brood, fungi that infect the bees and food storages, and other atypical cell contents. 

Honey Bee Disease


From left to right: Sacbrood, Stonebrood,  & Chalkbrood




The Varroa Mite

Varroa destructor

Varroa mites are one of the worst honey bee hive intruders, sucking the hemolymph from adult and brood (especially drone brood), and quickly reproducing in the hive.  Honey bees are able to detect these mites in their brood and remove both the infected brood and the mites from adult bees, but not fast enough to prevent collapse (Spivak, 2001).  It has been shown repeatedly that the Varroa destructor mite has been lethal by resulting in “malnourished, deformed and underweight bees” and by impairing the immune system of pupae, while transferring viruses such as DWV and Acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV) (vanEngelsdorp & Meixner, 2010).  The synergy between Varroa and DWV has been “responsible for the death of millions of honey bee colonies and has become the most significant threat to apiculture worldwide (Zheng, et al., 2015).”  Additionally, honey bees who have Varroa in the hive have increased foraging activity, causing them to stay away from the colony longer (Ellis & Delaplane, 2008).

Varroa destructor:
Life stages, male and female

Varroa destructor, adult female

Honey bee with Deformed Wing Virus



Ellis, A., & Delaplane, K. S. (2008). Effects of nest invaders on honey bee (Apis mellifera) pollination efficacy. Agriculture, Ecosystems and  Environment, 127(3-4), 201-206.

Requier, F., Odoux, J.-F., Tamic, T., Moreau, N., Henry, M., Decourtye, A., & Bretagnolle, V. (2015, June). Honey bee diet in intensive farmland    habitats reveals an unexpectedly high flower richness and a major role of weeds. (A. Brody, Ed.) Ecological Applications, 25(4), 881-890.

Spivak, M. &. (2001, April ). Varroa destructor infestation in untreated honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies selected for hygeine  behaviour. Journal of Economic Entomology, 94(2), 326-331.

vanEngelsdorp, D., & Meixner, M. D. (2010). A historical review of managed honey bee populations in Europe and the United States and the    factors that may affect them. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 103, S80-S95.

Zheng, H.-Q., Gong, H.-R., Huang, S.-K., Sohr, A., Hu, F.-L., & Chen, Y. P. (2015). Evidence of the synergistic interaction of honey bee pathogens    Nosema ceranae and Deformed wing virus. Veterinary Microbiology, 177(1-2), 1-6.