save the bees, save ourselves

Bee colony numbers have been in decline over the last 70 years. I’d suggest that coverage maps like this are behind one of the reasons.

verizon

Now imagine that you’re a bee and that those signals from the cellphone towers disrupt your ability to navigate. Just like the way that water molecules are targeted to spin in a microwave oven (by carefully tuning the frequency of the radio waves), the tiny magnetic beads in the abdomens of honey bees are the accidental victims in this “marvel” which we call wireless communications. Bees depend upon their own ability to interpret the “feeling” they get when those magnet beads orient themselves in the Earth’s magnetic flux; they are flying compasses if you think about it.

For every particular antenna length, there is a corresponding center frequency upon which it may communicate. The higher the frequency, the smaller the antenna. Conversely, the higher the frequency, the smaller the antenna which will pick up that signal on the receiving end. Today’s race for higher bandwidth and “coverage everywhere” means that wireless communications in the high frequencies used create perfect resonance for those tiny beads and that there’s nowhere for the bees to hide to escape this magnetically-noisy confusion.

History of the cell phone

The real history of the cell phone begins in 1946 when Bell Labs used WWII technology to commercialize wireless telephone in the states. Here is a graph indicating the number of cell phone subscribers from the period beginning in the mid-80s to about 2003.

EstimateCellPhone

Compare this to a graph of the count of bee colonies since 1940, noting that the cell phone was introduced commercially in the year 1946 and would represent the year that cell phone towers started being erected here in the states.

bee-colonies

Where’s the nearest cell tower?

There was a time when you could drive out of the city and immediately be frustrated by a lack of cell phone signal. That’s not so, today. You can drive almost anywhere in the U.S. and get a signal from either your own carrier or someone else’s if you have roaming turned on.

But in our own quest for always staying connected with friends and with work we have really hurt nature this time. We’ve hurt the honey bees’ ability to navigate successfully and they’ve attempted to move away from the disruption, flying further from cities and into zones which are dryer (less irrigated by humans).

Reviewing Verizon’s coverage map above, you realized that there’s nowhere to hide now if you’re a bee. They’ve been pushed to the brink. The further they travel, the less likely there is that there will be water to keep the hive alive and a steady supply of water is crucial for honey production.

What bees mean to us

If you think that bees are only good for creating honey, then think again. Bees are important for our own survival. It is estimated that a third of all food that we eat is pollenated by bees. But then, what about the feed for the chickens and cattle which represents the meat that we eat? The bees pollenate the wheat and the corn as well.

In short: when the bees die off, we’re next.

It’s in our best interest to help the bees as much as we can. We need to learn from our mistakes and to make the tough decisions required for the bees to return in number so that our future will have enough food to eat for our ever-increasing population.

1940-present

Speaking of which, more people means we need more pollination for the food crops and the feed crops, right? There are about three times as many people in the states since 1946 so we’d need the bee colony numbers to increase at the same rate or we’ll be hit by ever-higher food prices, one could suggest. The decreasing bee colony numbers mean that food prices will have inflated more than other consumer items over that same period. If you’re older like myself, you would reasonably agree with me on this one.

Solutions

Lose the towers, change the technology

The best solution would be to radically change our wireless strategy and to ban the use of frequencies which negatively impact honey bees. Given the US$272B which the carriers alone will make in 2018 and the untold amount received in the sales of the phones themselves, it should be impossible to wean these vendors from this business model. Even if you presented the data to them, they wouldn’t believe it. They are simply making too much money from our own daily “need” to take selfies in the Grand Canyon and to instantly upload them to FaceBook or Instagram or similar.

They [the carriers and smartphone manufacturers] are simply making too much money from our own daily “need” to take selfies in the Grand Canyon and to instantly upload them to FaceBook or Instagram or similar.

We’re to blame in this one. A corporation has no soul nor a conscience. We did this to ourselves.

Help the bees in other ways

Perhaps the best thing that we could do is to attempt to help the bees in other ways. This is the approach that I will be taking personally since it’s something that I can hope to accomplish in my lifetime.

Varroa mite

At the moment, hives are under attack from an aggressive mite by the scientific name of Varroa. I am designing prototypes which should hope to help prevent the mite from entering the brood chamber of a typical hive.

A little help from us

Beekeepers typically introduce a foundation sheet of pressed beeswax to make things easier for the bees to start a frame. These sheets may only be shipped from spring to fall since the cold weather will result in frames which have become cracked and brittle. It would be good if beekeepers themselves could create either the foundation sheets themselves or an even better solution.

I’m currently designing 3D-printed molds so that the sheets may be cast in place in the frames in beeswax in the beekeeper’s home (and even during the winter months).

Lowering the cost of beekeeping

Finally, if we as volunteers can introduce free designs into the open source space, beekeepers may take advantage of these designs and to make their own solutions locally. The honey-producing industry includes many vendors who hope to solve the beekeeper’s many problems as they try to remain profitable only these solutions can be quite expensive.

My approach is to provide free solutions and let the beekeepers benefit from my help. By helping them, I’m helping the bees. And when I help the bees, I’m helping myself. I don’t see this as lowering the cost of honey production; I see this as saving the human race, to be honest.