24 May 2017

Real bees drive The Hive experience

The Hive responds to the activity of real bees in a beehive located behind the scenes at Kew. But how does it work?

The Hive, RBG Kew

Good vibrations 

The Hive is a unique immersive experience, connecting you to real bees in a beehive at Kew. But how does it work? 

An accelerometer sits in a beehive at Kew. Accelerometers are vibration sensors. 

This accelerometer picks up vibrations from activity of the bees. And these vibrations are sent in real-time to The Hive.  

Lights in The Hive 

1,000 LED luminaires lining the interior of The Hive turn on and off in seemingly random patterns. But the lighting effects are driven by the vibrational signals from the accelerometer. So The Hive becomes a visual representation of the bee colony’s activity. 

Music in The Hive 

A soundscape composed of bee sounds and an ensemble of musicians plays alongside the ever changing lights. 

Signals from the real beehive trigger noise gates at particular thresholds, activating sounds from a pre-recorded library. The library was created when musicians improvised to a live feed of beehive sounds in the key of C (not B!). This created a constantly changing and evolving symphony - a dialogue between bee and human.  

Can you communicate with bees? 

Bees communicate through vibrations. Scientists at Nottingham Trent University, led by Dr Martin Bencsik, only recently discovered this. And it is the influencing force behind Wolfgang Buttress's design for The Hive. 

He illustrates the vibrations through light and sound. And in the area under The Hive you can discover for yourself how it might be to communicate with a bee. Bone conductors convert the sounds from the beehive into vibrations which, when touched with a wooden stick, travel directly to the skull. This experience gives you an insight into the secrets of bee communication.