Picture the scene. There we were, standing under a huge latticed structure, a wooden spill clamped between our teeth whilst poking it into a small hole in a tall pole.
This was all part of a beautiful structure called “The Hive”, designed by Wolfgang Buttress and currently installed in Kew Gardens. The reason for our rather ungainly interaction with the “bone conductors” was to hear the clicks and chirps made by the busy bees in two hives co-located in Kew. It was a most eerie sensation to hear without hearing, as the sounds were transmitted directly into our skull. As researchers believe honey bees are deaf, this gives us humans a way of experiencing vibrations in the way the bees might.
Even more interesting was the diversity of bee communication – something I am particularly interested in at the moment having completed a picture book story about a bee called Bea!
The same vibrations were in action in the upper part of The Hive, where they are converted into lighting effects. The lights glow more brightly and in an differing range of colours, depending on the intensity of activity in the linked hives. Standing inside the 17 metre structure, watching it glow and listening to a beguiling sound scape was quite a mesmerising experience.
“The Hive represents the important relationship between bee and human, bringing together beauty, science, sound and landscape through a multi-sensory experience.”
The whole structure and experience highlight once again the importance of bees to our future food security – a very similar message to the one which underpinned my recent visit to Gosnells Mead brewery. Bee populations are suffering declines globally, from habitat loss as well as parasites and disease. Alongside the installation, researchers at Kew have been exploring the relationship between plants and their pollinators. Research like this is crucial if we are to protect both our own food sources and the tiny pollinators who play such a large part in our world.
As the bees might say – when they go, they’re taking us all with them.
©Chez l’abeille 2016