I’m late in posting this, but it’s too good to pass up – our friend Troels Folmann sends us his latest sound design experiment, this time with bees.

Better audio:
Bees by Tonehammer


  • 200-230 wing flaps per second (hence the tone)
  • Top speed: 15 mph.
  • Compound eyes with thousands of tiny lenses plus simple eyes.
  • A life form with 20,000 known species, on which human life depends
  • Availability: with our protection, a long, long time. Without, we’re toast.

There’s also a free bee sample set for use with Kontakt or (via WAV) any other tool. [Download link, .rar ]

We’d love to hear music you make with those samples. If you compose something, send them to us in comments!

Lots of additional info:
Music Made with Bees [tonehammer]

Bee populations are in decline, which is a deep concern. Happily, at least one culprit has been ruled out: research suggests mobile phones are not to blame after all.

The New York Times has a good recent article on bees, why they’re so important to human life and agriculture, the disturbing rapid decline in their population, and a breakthrough that’s occurred in the last week. The news isn’t good: colony collapse, and it may be linked to a combination fungus/virus. Hopefully this new evidence will lead to a solution.
Trouble in the Hive, by Kirk Johnson for the NY Times

You can support bee research here: http://www.helpthehoneybees.com/

(In this case, surprisingly, academia teamed up with the US Army chemical and biological research group. It’s nice to see a non-destructive military application of chemicals and biology.)

The connection to sound, though, is clear to me: just as photographs or video can help us get closer to subjects that matter, so can sound and music. They’re another way of experiencing our world. So send in that bee music.

  • If you just can't get enough bees in your life, I recommend Colony Collapse Disorder radio, produced by students at RPI a couple years ago. 7 episodes. http://colonycollapsedisorder.wordpress.com/

  • dave

    great work 🙂

    funny. i also was out at my grandpas bees and took some recording from the interior of a beehive and from their landing platform.

    if anyone is interested just let me know

  • wow…. super epic bee track
    awesome work!

  • adamduke

    …and then there's this…


    seems like the scientist neglected to mention this was done with funding from the large company Bayer (who is a producer of pesticides, also mentioned as a possible reason for our massive bee decline)

  • Treppenwitz

    NYT reported last week that colony collapse was recently found to be the result of a virus comorbid with a fungus:


  • divbyzero

    C'mon, Buzz is old news. 🙂

  • Jeffrey

    Thanks for the cool sample set. But I remember Francesco Lopez working with Bee sounds many years ago in his sound installations. I like that this guy made some cool electronica out of it, as it's a but hard to listen to 18Khz sounds for any period of time.

  • dead_red_eyes

    damn, that bee track is killing it!

  • lematt

    sounds like vuvuzelas to me =)

  • What next? music made with birds?

  • braduro

    Without first hunting down the citations or being too specific, I'd like to mention that there is another audio linkage that CDM followers would appreciate: the frequencies that healthy colonies radiate are different from threatened ones. The info is probably within the links of this post, but I'm sure we could track them down.

  • al

    definatly the bees knees
    really awsome sounds

  • Johan Strandell

    Swedish musician/actor Gaby Stenberg made a bee set for the Mellotron back in the 1970s. Roth-Händle studios have got a copy of the tapes and there are some videos on Youtube, like this one:


  • Leo

    i used the organ patch (Hammond Bee? lol)found in this set in a quick tune that i had my 4 yr old sing 🙂


  • I produced a 15 minute recording on the 17th October 2010 using one sample of a bee trapped in a glass taken from the "made with bees" article on create digital music.com, It was made with just one max patch in one live recording featuring Tom Erbes excellent externals…

    the signal path is just a an sfplay~ into +pitchdelay~ into +decimate~ into +delay~ into +bubble~ into dac~… with adoutput~ into sfrecord~ to record the output.

    download the max patch i used here: http://code.google.com/p/datamapmax/downloads/det
    the original create digital music article from which the one bee sample was taken.:

    here the recording here:::::

  • leakeg

    this is excellent!

  • Hello – it's time to put honey bees on the back burner for a minute and talk about native, wild bees – most of which do not make honey or wax, or live in hives (see comment below). I've been creating audio art from bumble bees and other kinds of (mostly native) non-honey bees, as wel as honey bees, since 2003. Many of these works are posted at sonus.ca, under my name. I have also been directing and creating work within "Resonating Bodies – a series of mixed media installations and community outreach projects which focuses on biodiversity of pollinators indigenous to the natural and urban ecosystems of the Greater Toronto Area." My current work revolves around amplified habitat installations for wild, solitary-nesting bees and wasps: http://resonatingbodies.wordpress.com/art/audio-b…. The following comment sums up my perspective:

    "…Although the number of [bee] species currently managed for pollination in North America is comparatively small, native wild bees are thought to be responsible for quite a large proportion of the economic benefits attributed to honey bees (Buchmann and Nabhan, 1996). Sometimes, it is not only the number of visits to a flower, but also the diversity of bee species visiting (controlled for total number of insect visits) that determines crop yield (Kremen et al., 2002). Wild bees are also crucial for the pollination of most non-crop flowering plants, and thus play an even greater role in most terrestrial ecosystems (Kevan, 2001, 2003; Kevan and Imperatriz-Fonseca, 2002)."

    From "The Bee Genera of Eastern Canada", from the Canadian Journal of Anthropod Identification (CJAI 03 September 25, 2007; by Laurence Packer, Julio A. Genaro and Cory S. Sheffield, York University, Department of Biology, Canada)

  • superlative tally you keep

  • Cheers n thanks for the sample set, used them for a drum rack and a synth, along with some recordings of my own. They're here, mashed up alongside monsanto commercials, movie clips, live instrumentation etc., into the story of colony collapse disorder…
    also, still working on getting good recordings of multiple hives stacked together. the sound is something else, like club speakers. If anyone's got field recordings, please let me know.

  • chris

    There has been a bee in my house for three days. He piggybacked on my back till I turned around trying to kill him. Bees well they kinda have the fast flying thing down. I randomly found this site, and played the music by the exit of my house. Adios bee!