Telling the Bees

Telling the Bees explores beekeeping practices and the traditional stories that surround it.

Telling the Bees is an AHRC Connected Communities project exploring beekeeping practices and the traditional stories that surround it. The methods by which the new generation of beekeepers learns its skills is changing, raising questions about the loss of traditionally held knowledge, understanding and practice. Working with beekeepers and storytellers the project gathered stories, co-created artefacts and designed experiences to hold and share Traditional Ecological Knowledge as a community resource and a form of ‘future folklore’.

Among other activities, two prototypes were introduced at Tay Landscape Partnership’s Fruit Festival in Perth, Scotland, The Beespoon and The Augmented Beesuit.

The Beespoon visualized to participants the value of honey and the effort needed for its production. A beespoon is one-twelth the size of a teaspoon and holds the amount of honey that a worker honeybee can make during her lifetime. It is estimated that a worker honeybee collects nectar from 1837 flowers to produce this amount of honey, so the project team created an installation where people made origami flowers to release droplets of honey and fill the beespoon.

The Augmented Beesuit incorporates an iPhone and loudspeakers to play audio snippets of bee lore taken from interviews with experienced beekeepers. The activity was designed as an audio treasure hunt with new clues generated by participants helping the next treasure hunters. The entire activity created a parallel with the bee dances connected with foraging.

In other activities bee-friendly flower and grass seed were packaged with fragments of bee lore from literature, non-fiction prose and poetry sources and shared with festivalgoers, who also had the opportunity to reflect on what they might ‘tell the bees’ using ‘cut-up poetry’ and drawing activities.

Liz Edwards has been working as a designer on the project.
Primary Investigator: Debbie Maxwell of Edinburgh University
Co-Investigators: Niamh Dowling from Falmouth University and Toby Pillatt from the University of Sheffield
Partner: Tay Landscape Partnership (TayLP).
Photos: © Lindsay Perth 2015

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