New project by Neri Oxman and the team at Mediated Matter Group / MIT Media Lab explores the possibility of a controlled space in which seasonal honeybees can thrive year-round. Light, humidity, and temperature are engineered to simulate a perpetual spring environment. Bees are provided with synthetic pollen and sugared water, and evaluated regularly for health and wellbeing. In this initial experiment, humans and honeybees co-habitate, enabling natural cultivation in an artificial space across scales, from organism- to building-scale.
The Synthetic Apiary bridges the organism- and building-scale by exploring a “keystone species": bees. We investigate the cohabitation of humans and bees through a controlled atmosphere and observation of resulting behaviors. The project applies Mediated Matter’s ongoing research into biologically augmented digital fabrication with silkworms and eusocial insect communities to product, architectural, and possibly urban, scales. Many insect communities present collective behavior known as “swarming,” prioritizing group over individual survival, while constantly working to achieve common goals. Often, groups of these eusocial organisms leverage collaborative behavior for relatively large-scale construction. For example, ants create extremely complex networks by tunneling, wasps generate intricate paper nests with materials sourced from local areas, and bees deposit wax to build intricate hive structures.