When Ava Roth adds the last stitch grasping horsehair or porcupine quills to her embroidered artworks, she passes the fibrous material on to her black-and-yellow counterparts. The Toronto-based artist collaborates with bees to encase her mixed-media pieces in waxy honeycomb. What emerges are organic artworks that consider interspecies interactions and the beauty that such meetings can garner.
Since 2019, Roth has been expanding the wooden frames of her works to twice the size as previous projects. She receives help from master beekeeper Mylee Nordin, and together, they vertically stack hive boxes, which are known as supers, and insert large, custom-made structures. The artist also has developed a more detailed practice in recent months. “Because this project has required so much trial and error, I was still experimenting with materials last season, trying to find substances that the bees would consistently respond to positively,” she writes. “I was trying to find organic substances that would not harm the bees but also that the bees would not eat or otherwise destroy.”
When the bees finished wax production in late October, Roth says her understanding of the species and confidence in her choice of raw matter had grown. “I spent the winter weaving and embroidering beeswax, porcupine quills, horsehair, and other organic material into embroidery hoops, and then fixing them onto my new custom made frames,” she notes.
Roth’s projects also have a sense of urgency through their connection to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that’s killing colonies and threatening the species’ population. “Honeybees are often considered a harbinger of the health of our planet, and CCD is interpreted by many environmentalists and scientists as a clear indicator of our current environmental crisis,” the artist says.
I consider the bees to be my co-workers, collaborators in every sense. I take cues from their needs, design the project around their capacities, and work in sync with their seasons. Ultimately, this art that we make together is essentially hopeful at a time when we are overwhelmed with despair at the state of the environment, and our role in its destruction.
During the winter, Roth plans to refine her project further after reflecting on another season of interspecies collaboration. Follow the latest updates on her encaustic works on Instagram.
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Phoenix-based artist Lesley Green (previously), of Bespoke Glass, merges natural pigments and geometric shapes in her stained-glass pieces. Some of her recent work includes a trio of translucent birds that mimic paper cranes and circular pieces patterned with multi-hued rounds. Green’s yellow honeycomb drops, though, were one of her first completely hand-cut designs and are created in single hexagons and groupings of two, three, and four.
The artist said on Etsy that her light-refracting projects are the result of “considering (the) ways stained glass could be reimagined to be flexible, customizable and portable,” rather than a permanent feature fixed in a house or building. To see the delicate formations Green has available, check out Etsy or Instagram.
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The Last Honey Hunter was released in 2017, but is new to us at Colossal and is a powerful story worth a watch at any point. Set in rural Nepal, the half hour documentary chronicles the Kulung culture’s traditions of honey collection. Using precarious methods to scale treacherous cliffs, the Kulung seek to harvest a particular type of psychotropic honey that has spiritual significance to the community. We won’t seek to paraphrase the intricacies of the tradition; when you have some time, go into full screen mode and sink in to the story.
Written and directed by Ben Knight, The Last Honey Hunter is a co-production of Camp4 Collective and Felt Soul Media, in association with National Geographic and with the community expertise of dZi Foundation. You can also read about the Kulung honey rituals in a National Geographic article.
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Gone are the days of full coverage beekeeping suits and padded gloves with the invention of a radical new hive by Italian company Beeing, which was founded by a third-generation bee keeper. B-box is the very first system designed for homes and urban environments, with a small footprint that can fit on even the tiniest of balconies or backyards. Not only does the simplified hive makes raising bees and harvesting honey easy for novices, it benefits the bees as well. A seven-foot-tall chimney ensures that bees remain out of range when coming in and out of the hive, while uniquely designed chambers present only small sections of the honeycomb so users are not disturbing or impacting the health of the hive by extracting a large sheet.
With 80% of the world’s food supply needing the help of bees, coupled with major threats to a declining bee population, it is more crucial than ever that solutions to this crisis are discovered and put into action. You can learn more about B-box in the video below, and contribute to their campaign by visiting IndieGoGo. (via designboom)
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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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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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