LIVING SOUND : 17 October 2009 (Bees)

I recently heard a radio broadcast on BBC radio 4 about a project in Manchester to increase the population of honey bees. Bee keepers had been brought in to train allotment holders to start their own hives and produce honey. When interviewed about their experience, the participants reported feeling nervous at the prospect of being covered by a swarm of bees, even in a protective suit. What surprised them was how relaxing and therapeutic the encounter was. The news item made me smile, though it left me thinking why? What could bees do that would have such a positive effect?

They buzz!

I made a Google search and found a few articles about bee sounds. The sound created is reported to average between 225-285 Hz which corresponds with the notes ranging from around A2 and D3 on the piano i.e. just below and above middle C. The tonic of Indian drone instruments such as the Tanpura and Shruti Box is mostly tuned within this frequency range. It is also a range favoured for chanting.

When bees come together en masse, their individual sounds merge to produce a great humming noise. This sound is rich in complex overtones and can be felt as well as heard. The bee keeper would be enveloped in this vibratory field; quite literally bathing in the sound of bees.

Article about how bees make sound:
Video of a bee humming in B flat:© Stefan Cartwright 2009

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