Artfully Beeful – Doing the Waggle Dance

Bee on a bramble photograph Dan Short

Wandering the ways of the bees – and thinking about creativity.

Artful Ways is being interpreted in many ways, and it’s turning out that many of these are inspired by landscape. And here’s one that’s inspired by others who inhabit the landscape – bees. It’s from Dan Short, who has made his own way following not footpaths, but beeways.

Dan visited Dr Julia Pigott, the Bee Keepers Association Education Officer, at her home near Brigsteer yesterday. With her partner, they have created a nature reserve on land they threw everything at to purchase, and have worked to return “the green desert” that the fields below their home once were, to flowering meadows, woodland and hedgerows to encourage the diverse habitats that these attract, to return. And here’s what he says about the Bees:

“My focus for Artfulways was to track a honeybee’s route from hive to food source. Although non-native, the benefits honeybees bring to the British landscape is arguably positive. As a layman, the behaviour that got me hooked on learning more about honeybee behaviour is something called the Waggle Dance

Essentially this is how a honeybee would communicate to their fellow bees, where a food source lies geographically. It will do a vibrating dance within the hive. The dance relates to the angle from the sun on the horizon from the hive and also the distance. So if a honeybee dances at 65 degrees and for say, .5 of a centimetre, there is a good food source at that angle from the hive and approx 400 metres from the hive. That in itself is brilliant. But, the dance will also take in to account wind speed, whether it be a headwind, tailwind etc. The honeybee can also compensate for the changing hour, so as the sun moves across the sky, the bee can alter the angle in its brain. BONKERS!

The day was hot, very close to 30 degrees C. I’m in a rectangular steeply sloped field overlooking the River Kent and estuary. Hawthorn, bramble, and hazel hedging all around, Lime, Beech and Oak, and open field being managed for wildflower. I can almost hear the yellow rattle. It’s young in its management but seems to be on the right path for the intention. There are hoverflies, bumblebees, honeybees and butterflies everywhere. I’m baked, almost withered, but manage a handful of sketches, take some snaps, talk to some insects and record my track.

And I’ve had time to think on the three questions posed by Artful Ways …

Creativity/Culture – Creating for me is a little like physical exercise. In some similar way, because I am challenging my body, but this time my melon (Brain), not my muscles, I get an endorphin high. This is addictive. And any results tend to be beneficial, visually and intellectually. Creating gives me time to think, perhaps like meditation, and this opens up more and more rooms in my melon. 

I will always learn something about my own skill and learn about a subject I knew less about before. I’ll meet people, react to people, learn from them (and this doesn’t mean purely academic information), teach them something. I will like people I meet, find some people challenging, go to worlds that I wouldn’t ordinarily visit, and develop from all those experiences. That to me is Culture.

Connectivity – I’ve missed freedom. Freedom to roam with few rules and restrictions. Funnily enough considering my choice of subject we have been asked to act as drones, in as much as we have been asked to act in a very specific way for the common good of all. I do think that it’s made more tolerant. I’m a more patient, slightly less judgy person in public. Beyond being more comfortable conversing via screens of all shapes and sizes, devices and apps, I’d much prefer to get back to the freedom to choose to connect in person.

Place – HUGE question. Change the way we see profit. Factor not only financial profit, but how will the environment profit from our venture. Express that message in our own creative activities and know that consistency and being as prolific as life allows will often pay dividends. And when it doesn’t, be strong and drop the ego. 

The 2 images are a honeybee on a bramble (above). And the most amazing little device to view the underworld. It’s called a currency detector. It’s a pocket microscope with both a UV light and white light. With the UV you will be able to see a flower as a bee would see it, and it is wonderful.”

And this is the shape of the waggle dance … Dan’s track, recorded on the App, and seen in detail. You can find his full track on the map. Click on the icon to the south east of Kendal.

A human attempt at navigating as a honeybee would.

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