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Bees – culture and survival

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As a new exhibition opens in Liverpool exploring the survival of bees Start the Week takes stock of the life and times of this extraordinary insect. The artist Wolfgang Buttress uses a fusion of art, science and technology to create a sensory experience of the sights and sounds of bees. Bees: A Story of Survival is on at the World Museum, Liverpool until May 2025.

They’ve been around for over 120 million years and Lars Chittka, Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary University of London, says the thousands of different bee species have evolved a huge diversity of lifestyles and are some of the most intelligent animals on Earth. They not only use a symbolic language, can count, use tools and learn by observation, but are now believed to have an emotional hinterland.

For millennia, bees have held a special significance in human culture. Claire Preston, Professor of Renaissance Literature at QMUL, traces the symbolism of bees through historical and literary records, from ancient political analogies to today’s discussions about hive minds.

While there are increasing fears about the future of bees as they battle exposure to pesticides, diseases and habitat destruction, Alison Benjamin is one of a growing number of people trying to raise awareness. She is the co-founder of Urban Bees and wants to shift the focus away from farmed hives of honey bees which are growing in popularity in cities, to the protection and survival of wild and solitary bees.

Producer: Katy Hickman

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