Beekeeping has changed radically since the advent of the varroa destructor (a parasitic mite), first discovered in the UK in the 1990s, with beekeepers now having to adopt more ‘hands on’ management practices to keep varroa in check. Meanwhile, bees and beekeeping are experiencing a surge in interest, as evidenced by an ever-growing body of work in arts and literature.4 Such interventions recognise the honey bee as a powerful cultural symbol, and are mindful of global challenges concerning food security and production.
Publications from the project are…
The honey bee is a powerful cultural motif that remains an important symbol for the future. Their role as pollinators, alongside a myriad of other species, is critical to the continued diets of humankind. This Future Scenario explores a possible near future where human intervention poses new risks to their survival. Drawing on folklore and contemporary beekeeping practices, Mr Shore’s Downfall tells a tale of discovery and loss as a young beekeeper is introduced to the world of honey bees. Three imagined artefacts are revealed through the story and discussed with consideration of their cultural context, desirability and relation to socio-economic factors. Themes from Mr Shore’s Downfall are examined, and the potential of writing practice for design fiction practitioners is considered. Source
Bee Boxes were one strand of a research through design project that worked with communities of beekeepers, storytellers, and school groups. The overarching project sought to understand existing and changing knowledge systems of beekeeping to imagine and potentially shape narratives and knowledge systems for future generations. The Bee Boxes were created in collaboration with three rural primary schools, in an area historically renowned for hard fruit production. To strengthen and contextualise school children’s understanding of their local environment, a physical story box was designed in the shape of a wild hive to store pupils’ stories. Each school had their own hive shape, inspired by organic, parabolic forms of honeycomb. Following a talk by a beekeeper, pupils collaboratively wrote stories and decorated their Bee Box. This paper illustrates the value of a design-facilitated making process to extend engagement opportunities and provide a resource for inspiration and future narratives. We will discuss the use of research through design to create open experience-artefacts intended for use in environmental education about honey bees and pollination. We reflect on the ways that openness has enabled appropriation of these artefacts creating additional opportunities for knowledge sharing and gathering by considering the role of the Bee Boxes across five distinct life phases. Source