Science / Tech

Melliferopolis has collaborated with a number of artists with differing approaches to hive intervention and interaction, and this difference in approach can be seen across the worldwide beekeeping community. American researchers Mary Kosut and Lisa Jean Moore divide urban beekeepers in New York City into two main schools, “scientific” and “backwards” beekeepers. The backwards category refers to going back in time to a pre-industrialised era before commercial beekeeping, and to a more hands-off approach. This means less management and interference, allowing bees to live by themselves with minimal intervention, even when it appears they are likely to die.

The scientific beekeepers, instead, share the hands-on approach and are more invested in helping bees through empirical observation, intervention and technology, and believe in the commonly accepted practices that have been in place since the 19th century. According to Kosut and Moore, these two types of beekeepers don’t actually interact with one another, even though they keep a common dialogue.

Melliferopolis is committed to increasing interactions and facilitating communication across a variety of disciplines. Embracing technological advances, the project has worked with artists rigging up hives or bees with technology on a number occasions.

As an example, microphones were installed in the Hexa-Hives at Aalto University Campus in Otaniemi, Finland, by German artist Till Bovermann in 2013. He used the sound originating from the hive to direct a concert, Hive Five, accompanied by five other sound artists. The Hive Concert was repeated in 2016 in Tarja Halonen park, in the Hexa-Hive Village with Airstrip for Bees.

In the early phase of the Melliferopolis project a collaboration with EVIRA (Finnish Food Safety Authority) to study the chemical compounds of urban honey in Helsinki was started. This was an example for the excellent properties of honeybees as environmental monitors of their local suroundings.

Sensors measuring the humidity, temperature of the hive, and the growth of the honey stocks were installed in Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden in 2014 at the Sensored Hive – Translating Bees Workshop lead by French makers and beekeepers Pierre Grangé-Praderas and Rémy Brousset.

During the workshop, Understanding The Essence of Flowers – Exploring Pollen, scientific tools were used to try to understand one of the bees most important activities related to the pollination of flowers. The workshop was organised on Harakka island, Helsinki, and took place partly at the chemistry laboratory built on the island in 1929 for military purposes. The activities in the laboratory were led by chemist Asta Ekman, who introduced the workshop participants to the bees´ chemical environment.

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Microscoping pollen particles in the Harakka island, during the Understanding The Essence of Flowers – Exploring Pollen Workshop in2014. Photo: Tommi Taipale
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Pierre Grangé-Praderas and Rémy Brousset lead Sensored Hive – Translating Bees Workshop in Vartiosaari island as a part of Pixelache Festival in 2014. Photos. Ulla Taipale and Christina Stadlbauer
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