In response to the ongoing global honeybee crises, I have been working in the lab of SymbioticA (located at the University of Western Australia) to produce an immortal honeybee cell line. This work is inspired by both the tremendous efforts of Dr. Michael J. Goblirsch and his production the world’s first honeybee cell line, AmE-711, in addition to the myth of Aristeaus, the greek god who brought bees back to life with the carcass of a bull. The Aristeaus Project largely seeks to respond to the global honeybee crises by asking what the future of beekeeping - and the interspecies relationship between humans, honeybees, and cattle - may look like in a techno-scientific future.
This project has been undertaken with the tremendous support of a number of scientists, artists, and researchers. Special thanks to Dr. Michael Goblirsch, Dr. Stuart Hodgetts, Dr. Ionat Zurr, Guy Ben-Ary, The University of Western Australia, The University of Minnesota, and all the members of both SymbioticA and The University of Minnesota Bee Lab.
"Aristaeus wept, when he saw all his bees killed and honeycombs abandoned incomplete. His sea-blue mother [the Naiad Kyrene (Cyrene)] could scarcely console his pain, and attached these final words to her speech : ‘Stop your tears, my boy. [The sea-god] Proteus will lighten your loss, and tell you how to regain what is gone. But so he does not baffle you by altering appearance, clamp his two hands in strong chains.’
The youth approaches the seer and binds the limp arms of the sleeping old man of the ocean. Proteus uses his art to shift and feign his looks, but soon resumes shape, mastered by chains. Lifting his dripping face and sea-blue beard, he said : ‘You seek a technique to recover bees? Sacrifice a bullock and inter its carcass: the one interred will supply what you seek.’
The shepherd follows orders. From the putrid ox swarms bubble. One life axed bred a thousand."
Ovid, Fasti 1. 363 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) is a by product of the dairy industry, and is derived from the blood extracted of bovine foetuses. FBS is the most widely used media supplement for the production and care of immortal cell cultures.
The process for producing FBS begins by removing an unborn foetus from a slaughtered cow, ideally without exposing the foetus to oxygen, and thus causing the foetus/calf to be conscious for the procedure. Once the foetus has been removed, the heart of the foetus is punctured to enable the extraction of its blood into a sterile container. The blood is then centrifuged to separate any cells or additional materials from the blood-serum.
It is estimated that around 700,000 litres of FBS are consumed annually to maintain the various tissues cultures being cared for in labs around the world.