In 1964, Eddie Woods (1901-1976), a BBC radio engineer, created a device called the Apidictor, an instrument which measured and recorded sound in a beehive. It filtered sounds to make certain frequencies easier to hear and measure. Eddie had a keen ear discovering that honey bees produce different sounds depending on conditions within the hive.
Annette Hegel and Deborah Margo are visual artists interested in the confluence of art, nature and science. They are also growers of plants and fierce guardians of pollinators. Working collaboratively they are creating an outdoor installation examining the flight paths and sound-making of the bumble bee, destined to be presented in parks across Canada.
The bumble bee creates a large and complex flight path while she is exploring her environment, departing from her nest and reaching into ever wider circles. Upon her return, she communicates her findings to the other bees in the nest through movement, sound and smell. These sounds are indicators of overall health and if we want to make sure that they continue to live to do their work, we need to learn to listen a lot closer.
Hegel and Margo have been following the research of how bees started disappearing a decade ago. At the time we only had a hunch that it might have something to do with pesticides – somehow bees were being poisoned. We now know that neonicotinoid pesticides confuse the bees’ highly developed sense of navigation, so that they cannot find their way home and starve to death far away from the nest or hive.
Apidictor Symphony’s first iteration:
The installation’s first presentation will be at Fieldwork, an exciting venue with a strong history of engaging varied and diverse audiences in landscape art based projects. Existing apart from traditional cultural institutions, it will be celebrating its ten year anniversary in 2017 by showcasing Canadian and international artists’ art works with a strong sound component.
Fieldwork’s meadow will contain a mowed series of wide, crossing paths reproducing the complex pattern and scale of the bumble bee’s actual flight path. The size of the site will be approximately 20 meters x 30 meters, with the accompanying diagram giving an example of the complex spatial drawing the bumble bee creates.
Visitors to Fieldwork will be able to physically walk the bumble bee’s flight path and listen to her pollinator conversations and songs. The sounds, collected and transmitted from apidictors installed around the site, will relate to each other like movements of a symphony, taking the listener through variations of speed, pitch and volume.