Why is bee silk creating such a buzz? Image: Alex Wild.

Why is bee silk creating such a buzz? Image: Alex Wild.

By Matthew Walker

They might be famous for their painful sting and delicious honey, but like many other insects, bees also produce a super strong silk. And we’ve found a way to recreate this for a range of everyday uses.

Unlike silk from spiders or silk worms, bee silk has a special molecular structure that our researchers have been able to reproduce in the lab. They can also give the silk special functionality by introducing additional or different proteins to the mix.

The result is ‘smart’ bee silk that can be turned into fibres, thick sponges or transparent films. This can be used for many different purposes from advanced aviation to wound repair and the replacement of human tissue.

Our recreation of bee silk is spawning a new generation of smart materials that can sense and respond to the environment. It has even been entered into a global innovation competition called LAUNCH, where scientists develop game-changing technologies to shape the future of fabrics.

You can check out all the finalists and vote for your favourite entry on the LAUNCH website.

Find out more about our silk gene research.