Like A Bee

How can designing like a bee bring about a more sustainable world?

Recipient of the The Edward ’59 and Betty Hainke Commencement Prize

Like A Bee is a series of educational tools dealing with the disappearance of honeybees and their vital connection to our food system. In the past several years honeybees have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Scientists have not yet been able to pinpoint the main cause of honeybee death, although loss of habitat, pollution, pesticides, genetic modification, immunodeficiencies, malnutrition, changes in beekeeping practices, and other human initiated factors are possible and likely causes.

Honeybees are incredibly important to our food and our lives. They pollinate the majority of the produce that we eat. The extinction of the bee population would first devastate fruit crops across the world. Apples, almonds, berries, squash, melons, peaches, and more would all be gone within the year. Over time, many other plants would not be pollinated and would cease to reproduce. Food prices would skyrocket, food shortages would be commonplace, and our meals would consist solely of limited grains and processed foods.

Like A Bee addresses this impending issue by presenting the audience with three steps: teaching the audience about the issue, asking them to engage with the cause, and prompting them to take action. These three approaches are titled Work Like A Bee, Swarm Like A Bee, and Sting Like A Bee.

This project builds upon previous ideas of sustainability’s role in both the content and creation of my work. Some questions I have asked myself throughout the duration of this project include:

Work Like a Bee

Bees have an incredibly efficient and intuitive system for working that connects their entire community. How can we work like a bee to recognize and appreciate their feats?

Work Like A Bee is an infographic that illustrates how bees are connected to our food system. Most of the plant species that rely on honeybees for pollination are represented in this image. The full impact of the honeybee, however, reaches far beyond this infographic when one considers the food chain and the other animals that rely on honeybee pollination for their food.

Similarly to how honeybee’s comb is limited to a hexagonal shape, the imagery in this infographic is limited to certain shapes as well. All icons are made from parts of a stencil cut in the shape of a bee. Only the shapes in the stencil could be used. They could be repeated, rotated, and flipped. They could not be scaled. The colors were derived from natural materials and plants that bees pollinate.

The original intention for the infographic was to use the natural dyes and a stencil to create the imagery. The dyes would fade over the course of the exhibition and could easily be removed and painted over. However, the low viscosity of the dyes and the labor intensive process made this an unviable solution. Instead, the infographic was tiled over 11×17 sheets of paper that could be installed without the need to trim or modify the prints. This solution was fast, inexpensive, reduced waste, and could be easily reproduced by others.

Swarm Like a Bee

Bees are vital to our food and our lives. How can we communicate this to others or help them think about this issue?

Swarm Like A Bee consists of a strategy game called Swarm. Participants take on the role of a bee keeper. The goal of the game is to overwhelm the players with different choices to simulate what it feels like to deal with the very real problem of Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. By having participants engage with this issue through game and play, the subject becomes more accessible to someone who has not been introduced to these issues before.

The produce featured in the game are fruits and vegetables native to the Baltimore/DC area that are dependent on honeybees. Player counters are laser cut wooden chips whose patterns were derived from the netting that beekeepers wear. The icon system generated from the Work Like a Bee infographic was used again in the board game and pieces.

Sting Like a Bee

The world we live in is becoming less and less hospitable to these little creatures. How can we make a better home for them, and for us as well?

The final piece, Sting Like A Bee, is be a takeaway that includes seed bombs and a message to share with others. The seeds bombs contain wildflower seeds, compost, and clay that can be thrown in gardens, patches of abandoned land, or alongside highways to create a food source for bees. Any action, large or small, will help these creatures that have such an incredible impact on our food system.

Many people fear the sting of a honeybee. Though people should not be fearful of bees, it does go to show how much power something so small contains.


Download project resources here.