All Ages
Gallery 4

Questacon Beehive

Take a peek inside and see what makes the hive buzz. If you’re lucky you might even meet the queen!

Located in Q Lab, Questacon’s beehive lets you get up close and personal with more than 10 000 of nature’s hardest workers.

Our latest exhibit is the new home for a colony of local European honey bees that was removed from a nearby tree for public safety reasons. With the assistance of Snowgum Honeybees, the bees were initially relocated to southern New South Wales while the installation was custom built using recycled materials.

The busy bees are able to enter and exit their new home through a tunnel that leads to the outside of the building. Footage of the bees’ activity at the landing pad just outside the tunnel is streamed live to a monitor at the exhibit.

Meet the bees

A European honey bee colony is made up of a queen, drones and worker bees. Each type of bee performs a different job.

Almost all the bees in the hive are workers. They gather nectar from flowers and use it to make honey. They also care for young bees and keep the hive neat and tidy.

The queen is the largest bee and is the mother of every other bee in the hive. She can lay up to 1500 eggs a day.

Drones are the only male bees in the hive. Their only job is to wait for a new queen to be born so they can mate.

Installation of hive frames into beehive exhibit.

Additional frames (above) will allow hive to grow.

Filling the hive pantry with sugar syrup to provide sustenance until bees settle in.

European Honey bees (Apis Mellifera) in Questacon Beehive exhibit

Fun activities to try at home

The Questacon at Home page offers activities and resources for children and families to experience and enjoy wherever they are. Check out the bee and insect questions in our downloadable Backyard Adventure activity sheets with different versions available for years K-2, 3-6 and 7-9. Discover how bees live together in beehives and how they make honey with our Science Time Visits a Bee Hive video.

Bee communications

We’ve all heard bees buzzing, and a bee hive can be quite noisy. But among the ‘huzzle and buzzle’, bees communicate using vibrations, which can’t easily be heard by us humans.

We’ve installed speakers in the Questacon gallery, so you can hear and feel how bees talk to each other. The signals were recorded with an accelerometer, a device that measures vibrations in the hive. Listen to worker bees ‘whoop’ when they bump into each other. Follow the ‘quacking’ of queens still stuck in their cells, and be impressed by the superb ‘tooting’ of a queen bee that has just emerged.

Temperature control: bee-style

Bees are very sensitive to the surrounding temperature. Ideally, bees like their hive to be around 34 - 36°C.

We have installed three thermometers: one inside our beehive, one in the gallery space, and one outside the building. On a live screen you can track the temperatures of the three locations to see how well the bees do their job!

Hive temperature control is all about teamwork. To keep warm in winter, the bees huddle together. To cool down in summer, the bees move their wings like a fan to create a breeze and spit water around the hive. When the water evaporates it cools the hive. Amazing, isn’t it?