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Lab of Misfits


Lates event features the Bee Matrix

The Bee Matrix is a living installation which we use to perform real experiments on the colour vision of bumblebees, both in the lab and within a public art context. It consists of a 1-metre cube made of Plexiglas containing illuminated Plexiglas discs, or ‘flowers', which can be filled with sugar water (i.e. nectar) in order to attract the bees. In this way, the arena functions as a virtual meadow of artificial flowers in which bumblebees can forage.

The matrix is an important scientific instrument which was developed in the first instance to address basic questions about how bumblebees – and by extension humans – see colour, specifically showing the relationship (or rather lack of it) between light and a bumblebee's/our perception of light, i.e. colour. More than that, however, the point of the matrix is to explicitly show the role of history in shaping behaviour, and thus the fundamental relationship between mind and ecology. 

Performing experiments using the Bee Matrix was central to the research conducted by the children of Blackawton School, in Devon, whose investigations culminated in the publication of the Blackawton Bees scientific paper. The matrix has also been the focus of experiments conducted by children from Westminster School, as part of our i,scientist programme. 

Visitors to our lab during the Science Museum's Lates event on 30th March can interact with both groups of children, as well as the matrix.