The sound of 35000 bees

In early September 2012, me and two other sound recordists/game audio folk (Andy Riley & Augie Restivo) went to visit a friend of mine who had recently installed a bee hive into his garden. We were armed to the teeth; our total gear list consisted of 10 microphones and 4 recorders. We all felt slightly goofy bringing that much equipment for what was supposed to be a leisurely afternoon in the company of approximately 35000 bees (in fact my friend the owner figured the number was close to 50000). But as it turned out, having that many microphones simply meant we could geek out and stick mics wherever we wanted in order to try and record this army of bees from every possible angle.

We captured a lot of material that day, but below are what were in my view some of the most interesting results.

This first snippet was captured with 2 tiny DPA 4060s taped onto a stick and placed right at the little gap that the bees use for entering and exiting the hive.


The next sample here was captured by two Sennheiser MKH8040s that were placed inside the top compartment of the bee hive. The lid was then placed back on the top. It’s essentially inside the hive, though the top compartment did not have any nuclei. All compartments were separated by mesh, so it was easy for us to get a very close internal perspective recording this way.


Here’s the two above samples mixed together. Everything was recorded simultaneously. We had several other microphones recording at the same time, but I did not include the results of those here – partially because I’m lazy and partially because they sound more conventional.


Now let’s show some pictures of the setup…


5 replies
  1. David
    David says:

    Sounds like a like fun day, Daan What was the sting tally? I have been trying to find someone with a hive to listen in to the bees. Lucky you. I wonder what contact mics on the frames would pick up?

    • Daan
      Daan says:

      Luckily no one of us got stung, we were careful in only ever approaching the bees sideways rather than full-front. They leave you alone if you don’t do anything funny. One of us has a fear of bees though so this was kind of a psychological experiment for him. He survived just fine though 🙂 And yeah, good contact mics would be interesting to use for this … I still need to buy myself some decent pickups; I have the standard piezo element things but never too happy with their fidelity.

  2. Jean-Edouard Miclot
    Jean-Edouard Miclot says:

    Very cool recordings Daan! I love the proximity and the dynamics of the second recording that give a very good sensation of a foreground and background. What I like to do when I have more equipment than needed and a single constant source playing, is waiving a shotgun mic around the source to give some sort of textural whoosh bys. I found myself using those takes way more often than the stationary mics that tend to sound a little bit too static after a while. Good job for not being stung 😀

  3. Graham Toal
    Graham Toal says:

    Did you ever run your recordings through a spectrum analyzer/FFT and get a visual representation of the state of the hive?

    (btw Is that a 767 on landing approach I hear near the end of the in-hive recording? 🙂 )


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