Resonating Bodies work in progress (2009)

On this page:
Solitary nesting bee/wasp mini-gallery lab
Vibrational Sensor
Diary, Summer 2009 and more photos
Credits thus far

YouTube Resonating Bodies video channel
Pollination Station-Algonquin Island (2009)

Sarah Peebles: Since 2009 I’ve begun to investigate, design and create indoor and outdoor installations which accomodate biodiverse populations of wild solitary bees and wasps while providing immersive ways to safely observe them in all stages of their life cycles. Using embedded plexiglass and vibrational sensors (working as microphones), these structures and habitat sculptures attract those bees and wasps that build their nests in above-ground cavities like twigs, abandoned beetle holes in trees or stumps, or any other place that they can find. Aspects of these works are so far being created in collaboration with Robert Cruickshank (electronics design and construction) and John Kuisma (wood/materials and acoustics specialist).

Solitary nesting bee/wasp mini-gallery lab, Toronto, Ontario, Canada:

While native bees throughout the world are critical pollinators whose relationships with native plants have developed over millenia (as are wasps and other animals, though to a lesser extent), their populations have been  – and continue to be – substantially affected by human land use. Because we remove most dead trees, limbs and bramble from gardens and plant extensive areas of grass, many of these bees lack natural spaces for nesting. Many agricultural, forestry and other industrial practices are large-scale threats to pollinator biodiversity, however, the investigations documented here are intended for our yards, parks and natural spaces on a small scale.

Leafcutter bee emerging from its nest in a bored wood block:

Small sweat bees emerging (no plexiglass lid):

Bee lab

(Note that solitary bees such as leafcutter, mason and sweat bees do not live in hives or make honey, and neither they nor solitary wasps sting unless they get up your shirt.)

“Nest Wall” will eventually involve a mixed media work which will refer in form and content to solitary nesting wild pollinators (bees and wasps) local to the greater Toronto area, to their life cycles, their nesting materials, and to their temporal relationships with flowering plants.

Below are images, video and information about current work-in-progress.  Toronto residents and visitors can also check out various solitaries residing in observable ‘trap nests’ at Pink Condo – formerly on Toronto Island and now at the Royal Botanical Gardens near Hamilton, Ontario (Spring 2010) – several of which are featured in our bee trading card series. Similar solitary bee houses are now also at the Toronto Zoo (Toronto), and Wings of Paradise in Cambridge, Ontario. These are places thus far which have incorporated this type of observable ‘condo’ – we hope more will do so in the future!

Solitary nesting bee/wasp mini-gallery lab, Toronto, Ontario, Canada:

Bee lab

Bee lab

Solitary cavity-nesting bees and wasps emerge from (and build new nests in) observation  blocks placed in a gallery simulation setting.

More photos from June posted at and at Rob Cruickshank’s Flickr page (pictures tagged resonatingbodies shows work in progress, most recent first.)

We have mounted and amplified 6 blocks in windows to our back yard, as we are investigating methods for amplifying and watching their activities. Each block with vibrational sensor connects to a small pre-amp / amplification circuit (designed by Robert Cruickshank) – which in turn connects to a small loudspeaker attached to a trasparent plastic sheet. We hear most of them quite well through the loudspeakers while we eavesdrop on their daily (and nightly!) activities. Piezo electric discs shown here; smaller BU series vibrational sensors also used (courtesy Knowles Acoustics).

Three species of megachile (a/k/a leafcutter bee) – mostly indigenous to Eastern Canada –  have created three different kinds of nest structures which involve resin, mastic (chewed leaves) with mud, and leaf structures (M. campanulae, M. pugnata and one unknown Megachile).  The pupae within (feeding upon pollen) have matured to adult bees and emerge.  Also, two species of local wasp prepare cells with paralized prey (tiny spiders and the like), a single egg and mud cell plugs. Viewed through plexiglass lids, the pollinators develop from larvae/pupae/adult, chew their way out to freedom, occassionally fight, and (some) return to lay eggs and create new nests.

These particular pollinators initially found their own way to these blocks at the Koffler Scientific Reserve at Jokers’ Hill ( University of Toronto; King City, Ontario). The blocks were developed and managed by independent researcher Prof. Peter Hallett and donated to the RB project (more at the RB site under “pink condo”). Thanks also to Knowles Acoustics. Sarah Peebles – concept, production and management; Rob Cruickshank – audio circuit design and techinician. More credits below.

More videos available at ResonatingBodies YouTube Channel. Documentation is also a work-in-progress.

Vibrational sensor

This is a small vibrational sensor (Knowles Acoustics UB series) which is so far the most effective type of transducer. Here, it’s amplifying sound made by small solitary wasps which is also easily heard in acoustically in this styrofoam mini-condo fabricated by John Kuisma.


This is “log”, one of the solitary bee/wasp condos in our back yard:

Diary, Summer 2009 and more photos

August, 2009
remarkable sounds and sights from emerging leaf cutter bees! both types of vibrational sensors work nicely, though with the tiny Knowles BU series sensor – usually used in industrial applications – we can hear the more delicate sounds of our one returning resin nesting bee as she deposits pollen ball and constructs new nests. all sounds are even more compelling when heard through headphones.

June 29, 2009
our small wasp resident has been making many stellar sounds while sealing her nest bores with mud. she is provisioning a fresh block in the window (ie she didn’t overwinter/emerge in this block) with zombie spiders.

June 22, 2009
photos of the following: mini-gallery, ‘bee hut’, milk carton trap nests (not yet set up to hear; only to gather bees/wasps for future use), and close-ups of very small Hilaeus bees almost emerging 4 days ago.  prelim amplification with small piezo electric transducer disc with custom circuit quite noisy but could hear the munching of our  Hilaeus emerging the other day. Today (not pictured) a small wasp is provisioning a fresh block in the window with spiders, and this is only barely audible.

Credits thus far:

Sarah Peebles – concept, production and management:
Rob Cruickshank – audio circuit design and techinician
Nick Stedman – production assistance + ideas
John Kuisma –  bee hut and new observation block fabrication, design ideas
Danny Villneff – bee booth construction
Kevin Steele – web wrangling and video
Peter Hallett – occupied nest block donations
Peter Kevan – straws for milk boxes out back
Laurence Packer, Stephen Buchmann, James Thomson, Peter Kevan, Peter
Hallett – consultation

Photos: Rob Cruickshank and Sarah Peebles

Links to Rob Cruickshank’s pictures on Flickr

Pictures tagged resonatingbodies shows work in progress, most recent first.

Rob’s original Resonating Bodies set

Have a question, feedback or an idea you want to share? Comments are open here.