56-Foot-Tall Aluminum Honeycomb Structure Responds to the Buzzing of Bees Within London’s Kew Gardens
Forty-four tons of aluminum was just transported and installed at London’s Kew Gardens, a beehive-inspired structure produced by the artist Wolfgang Buttress in partnership with designer and engineer Tristan Simmonds. “The Hive” was originally built as a centerpiece for the UK Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015 where it won the gold award for architecture and landscape. The installation both aesthetically and symbolically represents its namesake, aiming to demonstrate to visitors the importance of protecting the honeybee.
Standing nearly 56-feet-tall the work is located just beyond the gardens’ wildflower meadow, drawing visitors into the structure in the same way worker bees might return back to the hive after a long day of pollinating. In addition to being composed of thousands of pieces of metal, “The Hive” is dotted with hundreds of LED lights that coordinate with a soundtrack of buzzing from within the hive. These elements illuminate and hum in response to real bees housed at Kew, giving visitors a peek into the minute-by-minute energy and mood levels of the gardens’ bees.
Berlin-based photographer Dacian Groza was one of the photographers documenting the installation, and took many of the photographs seen here. Educated as an architect, he has a unique eye for the buildings and installations he documents, bringing special attention to timing and composition. You can see more of his architectural images on his website and Instagram.
“The Hive” reopens at the Kew Gardens on June 18, 2016 and will be open to the public through November 2017.
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When trying to protect farms in east Africa from elephants, it would seem that nothing short of a giant reinforced fence or a chasmic ditch could safely keep the largest land animals on Earth away without causing harm. Unfortunately, building such barriers around every field is impractical, and the interactions of people protecting their crops frequently leads to accidents or even death of both farmers and elephants. But zoologist Lucy King had a much smaller idea: bees.
It turns out elephants are terrified of bees because when the insects sting the inside of their trunks the pain is excruciating and there’s little they can do about it. The sound of buzzing alone is enough to make elephants leave an area immediately. King wondered what might happen if a string of suspended beehives at every 10 meters around a field might be enough to keep elephants away. A pilot program in 2009 proved widely successful and soon The Elephant and Bees Project was born.
There are now active beehive fences in Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sri Lanka. Not only do the fences help pollinate crops and safely deter elephants, they also become an additional revenue stream for farmers who harvest honey and sell it locally, a fascinating example of interspecies landscape engineering.
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In an attempt to better understand exactly what happens as a bee grows from an egg into an adult insect, photographer Anand Varma teamed up with the bee lab at UC Davis to film the first three weeks of a bee’s life in unprecedented detail, all condensed into a 60-second clip. The video above presented by National Geographic doesn’t include commentary, but Varma explains everything in a TED talk included below. The primary goal in photographing the bees was to learn how they interact with an invasive parasitic mite that has quickly become the greatest threat to bee colonies. Scientists have learned to breed mite-resistant bees which they are now trying to introduce into the wild. Learn more about it in this video:
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A London Street Artist Paints Swarms of Bees on Urban Walls to Raise Awareness of Colony Collapse Disorder
Street artist Louis Masai Michel is on a one-man mission to raise awareness of the plight of the humble honey bee through his Save the Bees mural project . The murals began shortly after Michel returned from a trip to South Africa where he was painting endangered animals, when he began to learn about about bees and the grave implications of colony collapse disorder. He immediately set out to paint a series of murals incorporating bees on walls around London in May of last year, but the endeavor proved wildly popular and has since spread to Bristol, Devon, Glastonbury, Croatia, New York, Miami, and New Orleans. Many of the bee works were done in collaboration with artist Jim Vision, including pieces in Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, and Hackney.
Michel is currently taking a break from bees to open a show of unrelated artwork at Lollipop Gallery later next month, but plans are in the making for a phase two sometime next year. You can see more of his bee work in this gallery.
We learned about this Michel’s #SavetheBees work through a collaboration between Sony’s #FutureofCities project and photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith who has been documenting urban beekeeping in London. You can read a short interview with her here.
Update: Updated to include information about collaborating artist Jim Vision.
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The Flow Hive is a new beehive invention that promises to eliminate the more laborious aspects of collecting honey from a beehive with a novel spigot system that taps into specially designed honeycomb frames. Invented over the last decade by father and son beekeepers Stuart and Cedar Anderson, the system eliminates the traditional process of honey extraction where frames are removed from beehives, opened with hot knives, and loaded into a machine that uses centrifugal force to get the honey out. Here is how the Andersons explain their design:
The Flow frame consists of already partly formed honeycomb cells. The bees complete the comb with their wax, fill the cells with honey and cap the cells as usual. When you turn the tool, a bit like a tap, the cells split vertically inside the comb forming channels allowing the honey to flow down to a sealed trough at the base of the frame and out of the hive while the bees are practically undisturbed on the comb surface.
When the honey has finished draining you turn the tap again in the upper slot resets the comb into the original position and allows the bees to chew the wax capping away, and fill it with honey again.
It’s difficult to say how this might scale up for commercial operations, but for urban or backyard beekeeping it seems like a whole lot of fun. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine these on the roof of a restaurant where honey could be extracted daily, or for use by kids or others who might be more squeamish around live bees. You can see more on their website and over on Facebook.
Update: The Flow Hive is currently seeking funding on IndieGogo. So far they’ve raised $1.8 million in 16 hours.
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Artist and beekeeper Ren Yue employs bees in the construction of these amazing encapsulated sculptures. The artist first builds transparent polyhedrons and cubes with an inner framework of wooden dowels, at the center of which he places the queen. After introducing the rest of the hive, he then rotates the sculpture every seventh day based on the roll of a die, an act that he says references the biblical concept of creation. Not only does the dice roll create an element of randomness, but it also changes the effect of gravity, causing the bees to build in different directions resulting in more evenly dispersed forms.
While we’ve seen several artists using honeycomb as a medium such as Aganetha Dyck and Tomáš Libertiny, Ri seems to put slightly more emphasis on the beehive itself as being the primary form on display. You can see a few more photos over on his website. (via iGnant, Huffington Post)
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In North America, Europe and many other parts of the world, bee populations have plummeted 30-50% due to colony collapse disorder, a fact not lost on artist Aganetha Dyck who for years has been working with the industrious insects to create delicate sculptures using porcelain figurines, shoes, sports equipment, and other objects left in specially designed apiaries. As the weeks and months pass the ordinary objects are slowly transformed with the bees’ wax honeycomb. It’s almost impossible to look at final pieces without smiling in wonder, imagining the unwitting bees toiling away on a piece of art. And yet it’s our own ignorance of humanity’s connection to bees and nature that Dyck calls into question, two completely different life forms whose fate is inextricably intertwined.
Born in Manitoba in 1937, the Canadian artist has long been interested in inter-species communication and her research has closely examined the the ramifications of honeybees disappearing from Earth. Working with the insects results in completely unexpected forms which can be surprising and even humorous. “They remind us that we and our constructions are temporary in relation to the lifespan of earth and the processes of nature,” comments curator Cathi Charles Wherry. “This raises ideas about our shared vulnerability, while at the same time elevating the ordinariness of our humanity.”
If you want to learn more I suggest watching the video above from the Confederation Centre of the Arts, and if you want to see her work up close Dyck opens an exhibition titled Honeybee Alterations at the Ottawa School of Art on March 3, 2014. A huge thanks to Gibson Gallery as well as Aganetha and Deborah Dyck for their help. All photos courtesy Peter Dyck and William Eakin.
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