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Bee Health: Audio Immersion

Pollinators, including honey bees, face unprecedented pressures through accumulated stress in response to disease, combined with exposure to environmental toxins. It is these multi-factoral stresses that have contributed to the current high rates of colony mortality.

In this Creative Exchange, academics from the University of Exeter facilitated a representation of honey bee data into a contemporary cello piece with an interpretive piece of music for both healthy hives, and those affected by pesticides and disease. The music is presented with a visual representation of the data, in the form of an animation.

By representing the data from bee hives in a novel way and going beyond language, the team hoped to tap into a fundamental way of experiencing a phenomenon to convey differences between healthy honey bees and those experiencing a number of stressors. The two tracks were created using two data sources each: the first from a study of honey bee behaviour when exposed to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, commonly used as pesticides, with a control, and the second from acoustic recordings from within healthy hives and those infected with Nosema. Oak Matthias, a classical cellist and Falmouth University Fine Art student, produced a melodic line by improvising from music produced by converting the behavioural data into corresponding cello sounds.

To further explore the way honey bees and humans influence each other, this creative exchange also featured pieces from the artist Kurt Jackson, and his exhibition "Bees (and the odd wasp) in my bonnet".