Honeybees grab the headlines, but wild bee populations are also struggling to survive–maybe even more, since they don’t have beekeepers working to protect them. They also play a critical role in pollinating food. In a new project, an artist is giving wild bees some new attention by bringing people and bees together at a park.
The Buzzbench, a public sculpture made of cane and bamboo stalks sandwiched between curving boards arranged like a giant flower, is designed to attract both bees and humans. For the bees, the tiny crevices in the sculpture will provide a much-needed place to nest.
“Wild bees spend a large part of their lifespan looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs–providing a nesting opportunity really helps them,” says AnneMarie van Splunter, the Netherlands-based artist who designed the sculpture and is currently raising money to build it in an Amsterdam park.
For people wandering through the park, the bench will be a place to sit and get close to insects they might not otherwise notice–or that they might even try to avoid. “We tend to keep our distance from bees because we are afraid to get stung,” van Splunter says. “But actually, the chances you get attacked by wild bees are nil.”
Van Splunter knew little about the bees herself until beginning the project and working with scientists to design a structure to support them. “I never knew, for example, that there were bees only three millimeters long, that look like flies and do not sting,” she says. “It’s really quite interesting to see them at work, especially when you understand what they are actually doing. It makes one pay more attention to ones surroundings, makes you experience it in a different way.”
After building the bench, Van Splunter plans to take care of it for the next 10 years, swapping out the bamboo and cane inside as needed. “It’s important to maintain it to make it work,” she says. “I would like it to be a place that many people feel involved with, for example as an educational tool, or as a place of research for experts, or just as a place for park visitors to rest.”