„Materials react with one another and have their radiance so that the material composition gives rise to something unique.“
– Peter Zumthor
Bees continue to fascinate us ever so. As hardworking builders, we, as humans and as architects of our surroundings can learn from them. Dedication, hard work and care all create a space that gives rise to something really unique – honey. But what can we learn from bees as architects?
Bee societies are complex and hierarchical. There is a queen bee, much larger than the others, responsible for laying eggs. Like humans, the bees need some kind of organization, protection and comfort in order to work efficiently. Worker bees take up all other tasks in the hive, such as construction of cells, feeding, and collection of food, defence and cleaning the nest. The colony males are drones, in smaller numbers, whose only function is to fertilize the queen during the nuptial flight. This organization has slight differences between species. Approaching the physical structure of hives we can see that the variety of construction types is also huge. The architecture inside their hives is constructed in a way that beetles and other invading insects who try to infiltrate the nests end up lost in the maze and are killed covered by a mixture of wax, mud and vegetable resin. Scientists have observed a variety of structures in the honeycombs in three dimensions that can be classified into target and spiral patterns, which can reach up to 20 floors. An interesting fact about the honeycomb is its hexagonal shape in a repeating pattern that fills a space efficiently. Each small circular cell is an egg chamber, built by a worker bee that secretes wax there to form the structure. This cell is supplied with food regurgitated by a nurse bee and then filled with an egg by the queen bee. Within these cells, bees grow from egg to adulthood in about 50 days. All of this allows for efficiency, resilience and defence, thus helping the little buggers to create the sweet nectar in peace. But, it is important to remember that perfect architecture pertains another aspect – the surroundings. The famous architect Peter Zumthor always makes mention of the immediate surroundings of a building, the nature beside it. He argues that composition is crucial for a space to work. Bees understand this, it’s in their essence, and they transform the place they inhabit, composing a sweet harmony like no other. A beautiful song to heal even the deepest of wounds.