Sonic Beem

May 2, 2007

 Got an e-mail from local artist and dorkbotter Joseph S. today, asking whether he could come over and mic my bees. He says he’s working on a musical project that needs bee sounds, did a search for Seattle-area beekeepers and turned up l’il ol’ me. Nice coincidence, as I’m a huge fan of Dorkbot, a techno-arts group that meets monthly to share their work and inspire each other.  The Seattle chapter is led by a committee headed up by Dork Overlord and fellow Hive-Minder Shelly Farnham. Their tag-line: “People Doing Strange Things With Electricity”.  Awesome.

Anyway, the mic’ing idea has me pretty excited. I was just thinking yesterday that while I often blog about the bee’s behaviors and post photos and videos, there’s a whole sensual side that you really have to be there to appreciate (no pun intended).

bee-gees The sound of the hive is one aspect. It varies depending on time of day and whether, but when it’s sunny and they’re active, there’s just the lightest hum in the air, punctuated by a huzz and suzz of incoming and outgoings passing close to your ear. If you pop the hive open, of course, the hum becomes a querulous buzz, almost like they’re tasting you with radar sound, knowing something’s changed, unsure whether it’s friend or foe.

Knock or bump the hive, and it’s a whole different story. As a single body, they all start a hewing roarish buzz, a call to arms. If you hear that sound and your bee suit isn’t tight, it’s time to take a step back. They’re angry, or frightened or just determined, and you will get stung.

If you’ve got a smoker or maybe a spray bottle of sugar water, now’s the time to lay it on. It’s like giving Benadryl to a crying baby, except faster. The menacing roar of the hive, the zapping buzzing of bees making kamikaze runs at your head suddenly melt away and you’re back to a low coo, no more fearsome than a burbling brook.  

The smell of the hive is something else again. I’ve got to think a bit on how to describe it. Another day.

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