Hive-Mind

RSS

Bees in the Living Room

For the past several years, I’ve been experimenting with creating sculpture in collaboration with my bees. My first piece, featuringĀ a husband and wife entombed in comb, was my favorite. It was clever (I thought), whimsical and pleasing to the eye.

My other attempts (a rolling eyeball similarly entombed; LED christmas lights wending their way through wax, etc.) were interesting, I thought, but lacking in artistry. Yes, there are some objects entombed in comb in a way no human could create on their own…but so what? Beyond the “wow, how did you do that” effect, there was little to recommend them. Proof of concept, yes. Art, no.

For this year’s sculpture, I wanted something a bit more elaborate and thought provoking (but at the same time, no clobber-you-over-the-head symbolism). See the photo below for my start.

That’s a cheese plate on the bottom. The dollhouse pieces I picked up years ago at a now defunct dollhouse specialty store up on Phinney Ridge, figuring I’d do something with them some day. The cheese plate comes with an attractive glass dome that I was hoping the bees would draw comb down off of, so I drilled a hole in the bottom for them to come and go. I’ve got a little fake rug I’m going to try to cover the hole with at the end of the project.

The trick here, though, is going to be to get the bees to build inside my little dome. No reason they should or shouldn’t, it’s sort of up to them, but obviously I’d like to improve my chances.

My first attempt was to melt a bit of existing comb onto the top of the dome and then drip some honey inside. I removed seven frames from a honey super and placed the whole set-up inside an active and growing hive.

DSC02154

The result: the bees came in, cleaned out the honey and left the dome alone.

Then I remembered that bees will huddle on brood (eggs) to keep them warm, acting as nurse maids. It’s a strong instinct: if you add brood anywhere in your hive, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll converge on it quickly.

Burr brood combAs luck would have it, as I was inspecting my hives this week, I realized that I had put in a half-sized “honey super” frame in a full-size “brood chamber” box. As a result, there was an empty space that the bees had filled with comb…and brood. Perfect! Brood comb unattached to anything just waiting to be plucked (right).

I had some difficulty getting the comb into the sculpture, though. At first, I tried melting the wax onto the glass dome the same way I had the early comb. Unfortunately, the larvae that were in the cells on the exposed edge of the comb proved wet and slick, and it refused to stick. In the end, I just lumped some in on the floor of the “room” and hoped they would build up. Some of the comb was distorted in the process, but hopefully it didn’t kill the growing larvae.

This was yesterday. As of today, as you can see, the bees were still teeming inside the sculpture, and had even sealed the comb to the glass (as well as knocked the vodka off the table and misplaced the bra I had left on the chair). No new comb had been built, but that’s not surprising after just a day. I’ll check back in a week.

Bee Art in the Making photo.JPG

6 Responses to “Bees in the Living Room”

  1. Adele Says:

    The bees are facing major problems worldwide at the moment while you are using them for ‘art’ whilst ‘hopefully not killing the growing larvae’. It seems to me that rather than just focusing on Can I Do It, it may be worth also considering, Should I Do It?

  2. Jack Says:

    Adele lighten up, at least he’s giving them a home and looking after them which is more than most of the people who moan about bees disappearing do. He’s not harming the bees so tell me why are you so indignant about what he’s doing? I suggest that if you’re so concerned about the plight of the bees you acquire some for yourself and treat them as you want.

  3. BeezNeez Says:

    Great blog! I recently read about a very old technique called “glass jar beekeeping” that you may find helpful. Its a technique for doing comb honey that was used prior to the development of moveable frame hives. They simply drilled holes in the lid of the hive and inverted glass jars that had strips of wax attached to the bottom of the jar. A box is then placed over the jars to give the bees some privacy and they will draw some interesting comb in the jars and fill them with honey. It takes advantage of the fact that bees like to start at the ceiling and work down. You could do something similar by simply gluing the furniture in place, attaching some strips of wax to the wooden floor as starter strips and then inverting the whole jar over a hole in the lid of your top bar hive. One other caveat is that like most comb honey techniques it requires that you limit the bees options as far as other places to store honey. Supposedly the bees have to be a bit crowded for this to work well. In traditional glass jar beekeeping they would fill the jars with liquid honey after they had harvested them.

  4. Brian Says:

    What! Knocking the vodka over! I thought bees weren’t wasteful…

  5. live bee removal Says:

    This is fascinating. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

  6. dixiebelle Says:

    Seriously, Adele? You are worried that this man is going to cause colony collapse by doing this? You don’t think this might actually help increase awareness of bee keeping, of how fascinating bees might be, of their plight even? I sure hope you are putting the rest of the your time and effort into some serious protesting and action for the massive amount of actual harm going on out there in the world. Go heckle some factory farms. Go tackle some greedy ag corporations. Go petition for Fair Trade.

Leave a Reply