Word The Cat

Word the Cat

cosmopollination: a radio programme about urban beekeeping

Posted by Chris on October 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm  

Since April 2011, myself and Alyssa Moxley have been recording people who keep bees in London, their hives and the soundscape around… We spoke to people from Capital Bee, the Golden Company, Walworth Garden Farm and the Southbank Centre and recorded them tending to their hives and discussing what the practice of beekeeping and the organisation of the hive mean to them and to the wider urban environment. The programme was broadcast on Resonance FM on Tuesday 27th September.


More and more organisations are turning to beekeeping as a way to embed themselves into the urban fabric. The bees activity is a (embed) code which draws upon the urban environment, condenses it and transforms it into food. Pollen from plants 3 miles around the hive is collected and transformed into honey. People with severe allergies seek out local honey because the pollen from their surroundings, re-processed into something benign and absorbable by their bodies can increase immunity. Likewise, a bank or arts centre can embed itself into their physical locality quite easily by putting hives on the roof and having the bees forage in parks, gardens and window boxes nearby. Airborne urban farming which stitches itself into the city and re-processes urban materials into food.

Here are some of our recordings manipulated and re-presented as a 10 minute soundscape. The bass is by “Variacoes em La” by Carlos Baretto.

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bee soundscape


“After they developed social living, they realised that diversity was a help”

The queen bee carries around all the sperm she will ever use after one mating cycle. The bees in the hive will share the same mother, but have many fathers. Genetic variety in the hive allows for more gradated behaviour: If it gets cold outside, several bees will stop work and concentrate on insulating the hive with their bodies, if it gets cooler still, more bees will switch to working on insulation. If all the bees had the same genetics they would be more likely to switch behaviour at the same point, abandoning the other tasks in the hive. “They actually operate like they care less about identity and more about function. The function being preserving the conditions required to make new life.”

“honeybees bring in spring”

Bees are pollinators. This is one of the reasons that people are so worried about the colony collapse disorder. Honeybees (as opposed to solitary bees) move in an organised mass, the weight of their pollination is one of the factors in allowing the change in seasons to be realised and for new plants to bloom.

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