TextTool: Secrets of the beehive

Energy & Sustainability Science
TextTool: Secrets of the beehive



Princeton Architectural Press has done it again, producing a book that is as beautiful and tactile as it is thought-provoking and educational. BEE, by artist and photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher, is basically a photo gallery of scanning electron microscope photographs of bee anatomy. The pictures, ranging in magnification from 10x to 5000x, are stunning, and by themselves worth the price of admission ($29.95, BTW). But the deep captions that accompany each image offer fascinating insights into the alien world we’re peering into and the day to day business of bees. I feel like I learned a lot about genus Apis, and got to ponder larger questions about the designs, forms, and functions of nature, while casually browsing gorgeous photos and brief, engaging text.

The project that resulted in this book began when Fisher realized that the 6,900 hexagonal lenses of the honeybee also resemble the structure of the honeycombs they build. Trying to discover what that relationship might mean sent her on this microscopic quest. She never answers this question overtly in the book; it’s an ongoing, open question, I guess. But we’re all the richer for her posing it and mounting the investigation. BEE should appeal to anybody interested in science and the natural world, structure, growth, and form, photography, and of course, bees. Oh, and book art — lovely, lovely book art.

Here’s a slideshow of images from the book.

BEE by Rose-Lynn Fisher

In Other Bee News:
August 21st is National Honey Bee Awareness Day. The idea is to raise awareness of the vital role that bees play in our environment and food supply and to promote beekeeping, as a hobby and industry. This year’s theme is “Local Honey — Good For Bees, You, and the Environment.” The site contains a listing of local beekeeping associations and a getting started in beekeeping checklist.

See all of our bee coverage on MAKE

2 thoughts on “TextTool: Secrets of the beehive

  1. Dave says:

    “it’s an ongoing, open question, I guess”

    I should think it’s simple geometry:
    Hexagonal packing of (equal diameter) circles is the densest possible arrangement and hexagons are the highest-order regular polygons that will cover the plane with no gaps.
    Hexagons are the closest to circles, which have the highest ratio of area to wall length.
    For the same reason, bubbles tend to pack in hexagonal arrays on a surface. It’s the most economical shape in a packed arrangement…


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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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