Wildflowers and waggle-dancing: The Hive at Kew Gardens

The wonderful new interactive Hive exhibit at Kew Gardens is a must-see for all flower-lovers…

The buzzing new interactive Hive exhibit at Kew Gardens is a must-see for all flower-lovers…

Among the lawns and beautifully-tended herbaceous borders of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, a strange aluminium form emerges. It draws you in, a winding path circling the mound on which it stands. There’s a hum of noise.

After you climb through a meadow of wild flowers, you waggle-dance yourself inside the seventeen-metre tall structure, built from 170,000 parts. You can look up to the sky beyond or down through the glass floor to watch other visitors milling about below. Coloured LED lights blink above you. Small children lie flat on the glass to watch each other scurry about.

Photo: Jeff Eden, RBG Kew


This is the Hive, an artwork created by the artist Wolfgang Buttress and first exhibited as Britain’s pavilion at the Milan Expo in 2015. If you think it’s designed to make you feel like a bee, that’s exactly the idea. The Hive even hums and buzzes in response to the activity of real bees in a more traditional hive nearby. The busier the bees, the brighter the lights. The artwork’s not only aiming to make us marvel at it — which it certainly does — but also to make us think more about the natural world around us.

Photo: Jeff Eden, RBG Kew
The wildflower meadow that’s been planted by Kew Gardens contains thirty-four species of native wildflower and three different grasses, many with magical names. There are not only the more familiar daisies and poppies, forget-me-nots (below) and wallflowers, but also Meadow Buttercups and Cats Ear, Lady’s Bedstraw and Birdsfoot trefoil. In the hedgerow, you’ll find hawthorn and blackthorn, wayfaring tree and dog rose.

Forget-me-nots and a bee


It’s not only the bees who love wild flowers; we all need them. According to Abby Moss of the Grow Wild project, which aims to get more people growing flowers in wild places, the UK has lost 97% of its wild flower meadows since the 1930s. Those meadows provide homes for bees and other pollinators, which in turn provide food for birds, hedgehogs and bats. And they all thrive on a variety of plants to live on. The more diverse the flowers and plants we let grow, the more birds and bees will flourish.

Richard Deverell, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, says ‘Not only is it heartbreaking to lose the beauty and colour these native flowers give the UK landscape, but the plight of pollinators has a very real impact on the food we eat ourselves.’

So we all feel better for the beauty and colour of flowers in our lives, whether we’re bees or not. We can bring them into our homes, but we can also find unloved spaces, no matter how small, and make them grow.

Photo: Jeff Eden, RBG Kew
The Hive is open at Kew Gardens until November 2017. Find more information on the Kew website here.

Photo top: Jeff Eden, RBG Kew


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