LONDON – Inspired by scientific research about the health of bees, British artist Wolfgang Buttress designed The Hive to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators in feeding humanity. From a distance, The Hive—surrounded by a one-acre wildflower garden—looks like a swarm of bees. Its 17-meter-tall latticework structure is made from 170,000 aluminum pieces weighing 40 tons. When honeybees in a hive connected to the sculpture get busy, The Hive reflects their vibrations, becoming a multisensory experience: Hundreds of lights flicker and a meditative soundtrack by the band Spiritualized emanating from the sculpture gets more intense. The Guardian named the soundtrack, which includes cello, human voice, and music from 40,000 honeybees, one of the best albums of 2016. To get an intimate experience of the different vibrations bees use to communicate, visitors can bite a wooden stick connected to a conductor to feel in their heads the vibrations of four types of bee signals.

Originally created for the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, The Hive was installed in June 2016 at the Royal Botanic Gardens within London’s Kew Gardens, where 50 wild bee species have been identified, and will be in residence for 18 months.