These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees June 22 – July 16, 2022 Campbell House Museum

Campbell House Museum  
June 22 – July 16, 2022 

160 Queen Street W.

Opening event 
Campbell House,
Saturday July 2,  
2 – 4 p.m.

Artists’ Talk & Webcast
The Canadian Music Centre, 
20 St. Joseph Street Toronto 
Thursday, July 7
7:30 – 9 p.m.
(doors open 7 pm)

Co-presented by Art-Sci Salon & The Canadian Music Centre

These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees investigates wild, native bees and their ecology through playful dioramas, video, audio, relief print and poetry. Inspired by lambe lambe – South American miniature puppet stages for a single viewer – four distinct dioramas convey surreal yet enlightening worlds where bees lounge in cozy environs, animals watch educational films and ethereal sounds animate bowls of berries (having been pollinated by their diverse bee visitors). Displays reminiscent of natural history museums invite close inspection, revealing minutiae of these tiny, diverse animals, our native bees. From thumb-sized to extremely tiny, fuzzy to hairless, black, yellow, red or emerald green, each native bee tells a story while her actions create the fruits of pollination, reflecting the perpetual dance of animals, plants and planet. With a special appearance by Toronto’s official bee, the jewelled green sweat bee, Agapostemon virescens!

Our Favourite Bees Collective are:

Sarah Peebles, Ele Willoughby, 

Rob Cruickshank & Stephen Humphre

The Works

These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees

Sarah Peebles, Ele Willoughby, Rob Cruickshank & Stephen Humphrey
Single-viewer box theatres, dioramas, sculpture, textile art, macro video, audio transducers, poetry, insect specimens, relief print, objects, electronics, colour-coded DNA barcodes.

Bees represented: rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis); jewelled green sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens); masked sweat bee (Hylaeus annulatus); leafcutter bee (Megachile relativa)

In the Landscape

Ele Willoughby & Sarah Peebles
paper, relief print, video projection, audio, audio cable, mixed media  

 Bee specimens & bee barcodes generously provided by Laurence Packer – Packer Lab, York University; Scott MacIvor – BUGS Lab, U-T Scarborough; Sam Droege – USGS; Barcode of Life Data Systems; Antonia Guidotti, Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum

Artist statement

See the full statement and description of the artworks

We live in the Anthropocene, where humans make the most profound impacts on Earth and environments. But as land managers and agriculturalists, we humans have a very limited understanding of the ecology of pollinators and the processes that underlie biodiversity, including bee diversity. We know next to nothing about most of Earth’s 20,000+ bee species1, though quite a lot about some. But even what is well-known to science about bees and their conservation has not made the leap to government, to education or to the public sphere.

So how can we plan for the future, including the future of food, the future of biodiverse landscapes, of everything that interacts with the plants required for all terrestrial life if we don’t understand who pollinates these plants or the ecology of their lives? As we think about how to co-exist with the natural world amidst rapidly changing weather systems, ecosystems and landscapes, our knowledge of pollination ecology is ever more essential, because nature itself gets the last word.

These are a few of our favourite (wild) bees: bumble bees, jewelled green sweat bees, masked cellophane bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, and resin bees. They are our neighbours, living among us. They’re everywhere (and you thought that was a fly!). Although native, wild bees are not within our control2, the landscapes we humans manage and influence profoundly shape their diversity and abundance. Managed bees are somewhat but not altogether under our control. These include honey bees, some bumble bees, alfalfa leaf cutter bees, orchard bees, and alkali bees. They, too, affect (and are affected by) changing landscapes. And because they bring risks as well as benefits to the agricultural settings we create, their deployment demands scrutiny and prudence on our part. Feedback loops of viruses and parasites spill over from managed bees into native bee populations3, while competition for nectar and pollen between honey bees and wild pollinators add significant pressures to biodiversity of native bees and to landscapes.

But managed bees are the subject of another story. This is the story of wild, native bees in our midst, some of the plants that they, in their diverse forms and habits, pollinate, where they nest – and where you might find them outdoors. We invite you to look and listen closely. And then go outside and be amazed at what you see!

  1. The Greater Toronto Area has 350 bee species (Bees of Toronto: A Guide to their Remarkable World, 2017)
  2. Though we can (and do) make choices which decrease their numbers and diversity very easily.
  3. Pathogen spillover to wild bees research citations link


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