Saturday, May 11, 2013

Modrian and Bees

When you pass by a bee yard you are apt to see something like this:

A housing development of identically or randomly painted hives. Identical because painting so many boxes is a lot of work, uses a surprising amount of paint, and beekeepers are frugal with resources and often don't have time to get creative.

Seriously, do the bees care?

Home - but did she find the right hive?
When they leave the hive in the morning, bees use the direction of the sun's light to point them toward known or prospective sources of food.

They fly out fast and high, and they head in the right general direction, then search for the exact food source once they get there. Which flowers are in bloom changes incrementally every day. 

psychidelic purple hive
The return flight is different. Home should always be exactly the same place. Like many people, bees navigate their way back to the hive by memorizing landmarks. When a lot of similar hives are clumped together, this makes it harder for the right bee to find the right hive. So beekeepers traditionally orient each hive slightly differently. The bee knows that her door is centered ten degress west southwest and just to the right of that fence post. That's the hive she returns to after a hard day's work.

However there is a trend for hobby beekeepers to lavish their creative spirit on their hives, and we are no exception. When each hive has a unique color or design, the bees get a wayfinding boost, and the keeper gets to enjoy an original and expressive bee yard.

This year David is opting for a Modrian look. He wanted to pay tribute to a beloved artist, but there were other reasons besides.

The bees should have an easy time recognizing the unique set of colors in their own hive. No two are the same, but the overall look is harmonious.

David wanted a design that would be recognizable from a distance and hopefully bring a smile to people's faces as they pass it. The bees will be seen by many, but just a glimpse each. 

Because there is little time to view, he wanted a pattern that would accentuate the boxy shape of the hives, not obscure it. The eye may register "art" or it may register "condo". A split second later, the brain should sort it out "too small for a condo - what lives in boxes? Bees!  I didn't know there was a beekeeper here!"

As they move on with their day, perhaps they will remember our colorful hives and take a moment to wish the bees well in their endeavors.

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