If you ever needed evidence that bees were artists, take a look at this incredible photograph posted by Brian Fanner (of Luna Design Company). The South African designer decided to gift his wife with a heart made of honeycomb, so he called on the help of some Cape honey bees. He took a board and added a quick slotted design of a heart and a couple of swirls to help guide them.
“The lines are slots into which a foundation wax with the comb pattern on it can be placed…secured with melted beeswax,” Fanner explains. “Normally…a sheet…to guide the bees as to where to build. So they just come across this weird pattern of foundation strip and start building onto it.” Within the structure of their hive and with a little assistance from Fanner, the bees created a delightful heart-shaped honeycomb that looks as sweet as it tastes.
This may seem like an odd sight, but that’s only because we’re used to beekeepers placing rectangular frames within the hive. The bees then deposit their honey and build a comb directly onto the frame, which can be easily taken out and harvested by the beekeeper. You might also be wondering why the resulting hive looks so much fuller than just a couple of swirls around a heart. The reality is that bees will use as much space as they have to store honey. In fact, natural hives can take on all shapes and sizes.
For instance, sugarbag bees, which are native to Australia, make hives that form large spiraling structures. In temperate climates, some bees will even form an “open colony” where the entire hive is exposed. These can hang off of trees, fences, or overhangs and take on impressive oblong shapes. As for complex, manipulated structures (such as Fanner’s heart-shaped honeycomb), while the shape is beautiful, it can be a headache for beekeepers looking to harvest their honey. They need to cut away the extra honeycomb in order to free the frames below.
Regardless of whether bees themselves are the designers, the architects, or simply the builders, their skill is well known and coveted. In fact, other artists have also taken advantage of their capabilities by working with bees to create everything from sculptures to embroidery. So the next time you see a honey bee buzzing from flower to flower, just imagine what interesting artistry might happen when it makes its way back to the hive.