To Bee is a project of an interspecies communicator between humans and bees. The communicator is based on pheromones, smells that cause the unconditional reflexes that are perceived through a vomeronazal organ. The installation comprises three stands where spectators are invited to experience three bee pheromones: two pheromones of alarm and one pheromone of swarming.
Since December 2019 together with Laboratory of Higher Nervous System in Pavlov Insti- tute we started thinking of the answer to the question how we can possibly create an inter- species communicator for bees and humans. It soon became clear that no message we can send to the bees that they would care to interpret and there is no message they can possibly send to us complex and interesting enough to decipher. They would usually communicate outside agitation or aggression, none of which seems an interesting enough message. We the most interesting message can be the message about the different refer- ent of the same sign for a different species.
By this I mean that the most interesting message is the state of being something outside of what you are, an experience of another entity, an experience of sensory perception as if you were this other entity. So an interspecies communicator requires tranalslation of an umwelt
Translation of an Umwelt. What do you feel when you inhale hexyl acetate? It is a compo- nent of the smell of pear and apple. Human associations can be individual, it can include the autumn garden, market or a meal of pear with cheese. Unlike in humans this smell for the bees causes an unconditional reflex - alarm. We call smells that cause unconditional reflex pheromones. Hexyl acetate is a component of the pheromone of alarm.
Bees and humans can have the similar environment but due to different sensory percep- tion systems they exist in different umwelts. Umwelt is defined by physicality of sensory perception apparatus, different part of reality semiotically exists for bees and humans. In order to create a communicator a similitude in sensory perception signs needs to be es- tablished. In the case of “To Bee” the mutual umwelt is the smell.
After having analyzed literature we chose pheromones for further work.
There have been conducted five experiments: we used farnesol, geraniol, melissa, hexyl acetate and octyl acetate. Melissa even though not a pheromone was used to calm down the bees. The banana smell as well as hexyl acetate (alarm pheromone component) were stimulating motor activity. The speed of runs was accelerating, some bees started flying. We should note that being affected by the banana smell one of the bees started the wag- gle dance which was supposed to induce others into an action. Melissa smell had a calm- ing effect and caused a decrease in motor activity. Farnesol, (a queen bee pheromone component) made bees fly and swarm.
The installation comprises of three stands with masks, two 3D models (a bee and a brain of the bee), and a video description of the project. Each mask invites the visitor to inhale one of the bee pheromones: a pheromone of swarming (farnesol) is surrounded by two alarm pheromones (octyl acetate and hexylacetate).
Observation of exhibition visitors revealed the pear smell stimulating and mobilizing effect on people. Farnesol was distinguished and perceived by women only (in most of the cas- es). And octyl acetate as well as orange smell light invigorating effect in visitors. So we could transfer emotional messages equally to honeybees and people, and honey bee alarm pheromones were also stimulating people to some extent.
Original languageRussian
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2019

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