Accepted Paper:

Beenotes: the national hive and the top bar hive  


Rebecca Marsland (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

What is it about honey bees that causes us to reflect on, and draw inspiration for, our own social organisation? In this paper, I will explore this question by examining how humans collaborate with bees to produce different kinds of beehive, and alternative ideal societies.

Paper long abstract:

From Virgil to Mandeville, and most recently Seeley, honeybees and their social organisation have given us pause to reflect upon our own societies. Bee society has been lauded as an ideal form of monarchy, republicanism, consumer society, and democracy. In this paper I will explore how beehives exemplify the qualities which humans often admire: unity, orderliness, productivity and obedience. The beehive itself has served as a model for architects , and increasingly architects have been designing urban spaces for bees. I will examine how humans collaborate with bees to construct ideal societies by making use of "bee notes" (von Uexküll 2001), that is the sensory world of bees, when they design hives for bees to live in. I will focus on two different kinds of beehive widely used in the UK. First, the National Hive makes use of the "bee space" (popularised by Langstroth in 1851) to create a site in which the bee exemplifies the industrious producer of honey. Second, the Top Bar Hive, relies on honeybee architecture to create a dwelling which promotes bee health, and biodiversity. I argue that these two beehives offer two alternative social visions - one commercial and industrious; the second environmentalist and anarchist.

Panel P50
Social animals and us: anthropomorphism and animal utopias