Coaxing bees into making honeycomb sculpture

Hilary Berseth, an artist/beekeeper, makes his sculptures by coaxing bees into making their comb in specific shapes. It's no wasp factory, but it's still awfully lovely.

Artists from Rodin to Warhol to Mark Kostabi have outsourced the construction of their work. Hilary Berseth goes them one better: He constructs basic frameworks of wire and wax, then lets teams of tiny yellow-and-black art fabricators finish the job. "I knew they were ordered and regimented," the Pennsylvania artist says about his honeybees, which built the three otherworldly sculptures on view at Eleven Rivington. "I had an intuition that I'd be able to organize that, architecturally."

Berseth's armatures each go into a closed box in the spring, and then the respective colonies take over, filling out his templates with wax cells, then stuffing them with honey. "The last two seasons, I've been working with a beekeeper whose name is Jim Bobb," he says, explaining where he turns for expertise. "He has a graduate degree in mathematics from Berkeley--he's a minor beekeeping celebrity."

The Hive Mind (via Make)


  1. “Awfully lovely” …well put.
    “Artists from Rodin to Warhol to Mark Kostabi have outsourced the construction of their work.”
    I wonder if Rodin, Warhol and Kostabi rewarded their laborers by evicting them from their home when they were done.
    Aunt Bee, speaking on behalf of bees everywhere, says “Would you guys quit jacking us around already?! We’ve got a lot of work to do- these flowers ain’t gonna pollenate themselves, and this crap ain’t helping!” [It’s been rumored that she’s got a touch of the Africanized in her.]

  2. I couldn’t find a link, but some time ago there was an attempt to build construction panels by placing a grid in the ocean and then pulling minerals out of the water and onto the grid to fill in the panel. It was just flat panels at the time, but some very nice shapes could be built that way.

  3. there are wells sourced from limestone that are so loaded with dissolved limestone, that an object placed in them will ‘lignify’ in a relativley short time- they have been used in germany for creating copies of statuary- by placing a mould in the water, and chopping the mould from the internally cast object when thick enough…..I just want to keep the crusty nuisance out of my kettle- since I live in london……

  4. Aganetha Dyck is another artist who’s collaborated with bees (but in a somewhat different way).

    #6, Anonymous:

    A man named Hilary, now I’ve seen it all.

    My brother-in-law is named Hilary. My sister-in-law is named Frances. When I was first introduced to them, I assumed it was the other way round…

  5. This is sad. What happens to the hive bees, when he takes their all-summeser work. They die I presume.

  6. wow you could just be all like hey bee make me an amazing sculpture and boom amazing sculpture. this could bee like the thing of the future for the cool artists.

  7. The anon above me: Not sad at all. A trained bee keeper can move the queen bee. The other bees will follow the scent of the queen bee to a new location where they can start work anew.

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