On Thursday 20th May we celebrated World Bee Day, with the theme “Bee engaged – Build Back Better for Bees”. The event this year focused on the threats caused by the pandemic to food security and agricultural livelihoods. While there was focus on the ongoing environmental issues caused by the loss of pollinators. These pollinator populations are diminishing due to human activities. Intensive farming practices, land-use change, mono-cropping, pesticides and higher temperatures associated with climate change are causing this decline. It is estimated that insect populations have decreased by 40%, a third are endangered, and insects are declining by 2.5% each year. Pollination is a fundamental process for the survival of ecosystems. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend on pollination.


The UN has given advice on how we can all do more.


Individually by: 

— planting a diverse set of native plants, which flower at different times of the year;

— buying raw honey from local farmers;

— buying products from sustainable agricultural practices;

— avoiding pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in our gardens;

— protecting wild bee colonies when possible;

— sponsoring a hive;

— making a bee water fountain by leaving a water bowl outside;

— helping sustaining forest ecosystems;

— raising awareness around us by sharing this information within our communities and networks.


As beekeepers, or farmers by:

— reducing, or changing the usage of pesticides;

— diversifying crops as much as possible, and/or planting attractive crops around the field;

— creating hedgerows.


As governments and decision-makers by:

— strengthening the participation of local communities in decision-making, in particular that of indigenous people, who know and respect ecosystems and biodiversity;

— enforcing strategic measures, including monetary incentives to help change;

— increasing collaboration between national and international organisations, organisations and academic and research networks to monitor and evaluate pollination services.


Designers, researchers and scientists are working together to study bees and help stop their sharp decline. This comes from people finding ways to extend life expectancy, to giving refuge to bees. But ultimately to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, helping people understand why they are in decline and what can be done.



The Synthetic Apiary by Mediated Matter

Neri Oxman’s Mediated Matter group at MIT Media Lab has designed an artificial apiary. Named the “Synthetic Apiary”, the room offers precise control of light, humidity and temperature, making it feel like Spring all year round. The ideal environment means it is best for the bees to survive and produce honey, and their health is constantly monitored. The colony is also provided with synthetic pollen and sugar water. This research could help create a sustainable environment for bees, and also maintain bee numbers by controlling the queen’s biological clock to induce egg laying.



Marlène Huissoud

Designer Marlène Huissoud has designed chairs to be refuges for insects. The project, called Please Stand By, was created with the help of Robert Francis and Mak Brandon, scientists from King’s College London. Each chair was designed using materials favoured by insects, making a final product that is a combination of nature-friendly materials such as unfired clay, natural binders and wood. While the colours used are what insects are naturally attracted to, which include light hues like white and grey as well as some dark tones.



IKEA’s research lab Space10 has developed a series of open-source bee homes in collaboration with Bakken & Bæck and designer Tanita Klein. The Bee Home project lets anyone design their own insect habitat online. These can then be downloaded and forwarded to local CNC machine-owners. The design is aimed at solitary bees, as they are essential for pollination. It is estimated that, although they do not produce honey, these bees provide as much pollination as 120 honeybees. 

Mexico-based creative studio MaliArts have also designed a series of structures for solitary bees that are based in built-up areas. The project includes three objects that provide a resting or nesting place, food and water to bees. To attract these solitary bees the design of each structure was based on what the bees naturally seek in natural and urban spaces. Alongside the structure is a manual for the public to find out how they can create their own bee sanctuaries.




Mediated Matter

Marlène Huissoud



Kai Wenzel