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Volunteer cross-pollination with The Hive

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees, if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. Confucius

My name is Sandra Bogdanova and I have been a volunteer at the Horniman Museum and Gardens since March 2016. As January marks the start of a new year I am extremely happy to share the most memorable trip of our Engage Volunteer Team in December 2016.

  • Volunteer cross-pollination with The Hive, Horniman Museum and Gardens Engage Volunteer Team, Sandra Bogdanova
    Horniman Museum and Gardens Engage Volunteer Team, Sandra Bogdanova

We went to visit The Hive at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew to understand why plants matter and how The Hive tells the story of the crucial role played by bees. I come from Lithuania, where since time immemorial we have had a bee god called Bubilas and a goddess, Austėja. Growing up surrounded with great respect and mythology about bees made me especially happy about this trip.

Our relationship with the honey bee goes back thousands of years, to the dawn of human history. According to the Collins Beekeeper's Bible, bees represent vital principles and embody the soul. The bee also symbolises the soul that flies away from the body in the Siberian, central Asian and South American traditions. The bee to this day remains the symbol of immortality and eternity, diligence, wealth and kindness.

  • Volunteer cross-pollination with The Hive, Bumblebees at Kew. There are over 270 different types of bees. It is estimated that 90 percent of these bee species are solitary, like bumblebees, but honeybees are communal and live in hives, Sandra Bogdanova
    Bumblebees at Kew. There are over 270 different types of bees. It is estimated that 90 percent of these bee species are solitary, like bumblebees, but honeybees are communal and live in hives, Sandra Bogdanova

There are around 680 volunteers at Kew and 60 of them are volunteer tour guides. They have been given the Queen’s Award for their guiding and have undertaken over 1,600 tours since 1992 when the program started! Volunteer guide Leslie took us on a bee focused tour and he was incredibly patient and knowledgeable. Leslie talked to us about pollination and the two types from flowering plants and coniferous trees. He also told us how insects and birds see a different spectrum of colour to humans, so they notice plants differently to us. It also helps them to see which ones they have visited for pollen.

  • Volunteer cross-pollination with The Hive, Cross-pollination between the Kew and Horniman volunteers, Sandra Bogdanova
    Cross-pollination between the Kew and Horniman volunteers, Sandra Bogdanova

Kew Gardens is over 320 acres. The Broad Walk and The Hive are the two latest areas to be developed with more than 27,000 flowering plants, most relevant to our group because of their relation to bees. We started our tour in the Melon Yard, and then continued to the Alpine Nursery and Scientific Research Nursery. When we came to the wildflower meadow that surrounds The Hive, we got to know that it is made up of 30 different species all of which support honeybees. The meadow is part of the installation too.

Ever since 1851 and The Great Exhibition there have been Expos planned around the world to share knowledge. In 2015, there was an Expo in Milan focused on the theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for life. This spectacular 17m-tall sculpture formed the centerpiece of the multi-award-winning UK pavilion.

  • Volunteer cross-pollination with The Hive, The Hive was designed to look as though it could be a swarm of bees from afar, Sandra Bogdanova
    The Hive was designed to look as though it could be a swarm of bees from afar, Sandra Bogdanova

It all began when, in search of inspiration, the artist behind The Hive Wolfgang Buttress went to see Martin Bencsik at Nottingham Trent University, who undertakes research into how bees communicate. This planted a seed in Wolfgang’s mind for an installation that celebrated the bee, while immersing the visitor in a sensory experience.

  • Volunteer cross-pollination with The Hive, Horniman Volunteer Coordinator Kate Cooling listening to the vibrations of the Hive, Sandra Bogdanova
    Horniman Volunteer Coordinator Kate Cooling listening to the vibrations of the Hive, Sandra Bogdanova

Bee’s wings beat in a specific pattern (oscillation) which makes the note of C minor and this note is played in The Hive. The floor has hexagonal plates, which echo a real hive and and these vibrate too. There are lights on the walls of The Hive which are lit by the electricity generated from the vibrations.

  • Volunteer cross-pollination with The Hive, These hives at Kew give vibration to the Hive and can be felt on the base of the installation. For the Milan Expo in 2015, they had to run wires underneath the channel to transport the vibrations from the hives in England. The hives at Kew are only a few hundred meters away, so much easier, Sandra Bogdanova
    These hives at Kew give vibration to the Hive and can be felt on the base of the installation. For the Milan Expo in 2015, they had to run wires underneath the channel to transport the vibrations from the hives in England. The hives at Kew are only a few hundred meters away, so much easier, Sandra Bogdanova

The Hive will be at Kew until December 2017.

It goes without saying that it was creative and inspiring, yet unforgettable. As for myself, lately I got enrolled to a beekeeping course with Wimbledon Beekeeping Association and can not put down Steve Benbow‘s book The Urban Beekeeper. A Year of Bees in the City.  I invite you all to visit our Nature Base at the Horniman Museum and Gardens for a closer look at the world of bees.