Bees play a crucial role in sustaining the world’s ecosystem, so much so that Einstein allegedly said, ‘If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years left to live.’ It would appear that his warning has fallen on deaf ears; a drastic decline in their numbers mean that bees are fast becoming an endangered species. The Hive seeks to educate about the importance of bees and the challenges that threaten their existence. The multi-sensory structure is a network made up of many thousands of aluminium pieces, which are brought to life by hundreds of LED lights. These lights pulsate in accordance with a backing track, the low hum of buzzing bees, glowing and fading out in duet with the sound. The movement of the dancing lights is in response to vibration sensors in a hidden beehive connected to the structure, which picks up the movement of the bees within. The ebb and flow of energy within the installation is actually controlled by real-time activity from the 40,000 out-of-sight honeybees.
The Hive is an immersive experience: visitors start by walking through a meadow towards the structure, which from afar looks like an active swarm of bees, and once close enough, they are immersed in the sound of the buzzing bees and the hypnotising flickering of the lights. It gives a unique and intimate insight into the ceaselessly moving and ever-changing hub of life within a real beehive. The mesmerising installation won the gold medal as the UK Pavilion centrepiece at the 2015 Milan Expo, whose theme was ‘Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life’. Having left Italy, The Hive will now reside in Kew Gardens until November 2017.