Audio Bee Booth: "Pollination Wunder Station". (Short demo, March 2012)
An amplified habitat installation for solitary bees and wasps by Sarah Peebles
Booth fabrication assisted by: Rob Cruickshank (electronics), John Kuisma (woodworking) and Chris Bennett (wood burned illustrations). Video by Veronica Ladico .
This short video shows the Audio Bee Booth, "Pollination Wunder Station" and its Hymenopteran inhabitants at The Tree Museum, Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada in August, 2011. (See below for current booth location.)
This is not a beehive. It has no honey bees (Apis), no honey, no colonies, no beeswax or honeycombs. The Audio Bee Booth is an outdoor installation designed to facilitate observing and listening to wild, local solitary bees and wasps as they create nests for their offspring. Much as a dead or dying tree attracts solitary bees and wasps which often seek out old beetle bores as their nest sites, the Audio Bee Booth passively aggregates solitary bees and wasps already nesting and foraging in the vicinity – as well as their enemies, such as cuckoo bees, parasitic flies and fungi. Like a condo, the booth has individual apartments for the many varieties of solitary bees and wasps native to Ontario.
Within Pollination Wunder Station we see and hear a female adult solitary bee – the mason bee Hoplitis spoliata – provisioning her tunnel nest with pollen, within her nest construction of chewed leaves and mud (known as mastic). A wider shot shows 3 different species of solitary bee nests with their larva, a few months later, which eventually inhabited this nest plank in adjacent tunnels: Hoplitis spoliata (mastic and mud), leafcutter bee Megachile campanulae (flowing resin) and an unidentified type of leafcutter bee (leaf pieces and mud).
Later in the video we see opaque pupae created by the masked bee Hylaeus sp. develop in cells created from a cellophane-like material deposited by the mother (in the nest plank's opposite side). These will develop into very small, shiny black bees with white/yellow markings on the face. Finally, we see a mason bee (H. Spoliata) – just a few inches above the first bee in the video – defending her nest from an intruding bee. The bee on the left might be a cuckoo bee, one of the cleptoparasite genus Coelioxys.
"Because of fluctuating conditions, it is probably not optimal for a plant to evolve too tight a relationship
with any one pollinator. They must hedge their bets and maintain an hierarchy of pollinators.
Some apparent inefficiency in the system at any one time may thus be necessary to long-term optimality."
—“Bumblebee Economics” (Bernd Heinrich, Harvard University Press)
Pollination Wunder Station is a unique Audio Bee Booth which refers to the historic practice of wunderkammer, ‘cabinets of curiosities’. Rather than containing exotic, preserved specimens, however, it is full of curious living things. The booth's embedded vibrational sensors act as microphones which convey the subtleties of motion, physiology and materials to the viewer via headphones; the cabinet's pyrographic illustrations tell the story. Pollination Wunder Station is among several Audio Bee Booths in Ontario, each one unique. Aesthetically compelling, immersive and informative, Audio Bee Booths intersect habitat interpretation, pollination ecology, bioart, sound-installation and sculpture. Details at resonatingbodies.wordpress.com/. (More below)
Pollination Wunder Station was commissioned as a part of "Items may Shift" 2011 exhibit at the Tree Museum, Gravenhurst, Ontario. It is permanently located at the TRCA field station at Lake St. George for educational use.
Other Audio Bee Booth locations are listed at Resonating Bodies Web site (resonatingbodies.wordpress.com/).
Camera and editing, Veronica Ladico. Video direction and Audio Bee Booth, Sarah Peebles. Consultation: Laurence Packer, Cory Sheffield (York University), Peter Kevan (University of Guelph / CANPOLIN), Peter Hallett (University of Toronto / ROM), James Thomson (University of Toronto) and Stephen L. Buchmann (University of Arizona).
Filming of various species of solitary bee and wasp nesting activities is a joint project of CANPOLIN (the Canadian Pollination Initiative), Resonating Bodies and Packer Lab (York University).
Veronica Ladico is a biology and film double-major at York University, Toronto, Ontario and assistant at Laurence Packer's wild bee lab. Sarah Peebles is an independent audio and installation artist in Toronto.
“ Audio Bee Booths” are a project of Resonating Bodies (resonatingbodies.wordpress.com/).