Maybe he has no plans to work the hives.....
Health of the Hive
By Elyse Mallouk
February 29, 2012
Good stories take ordinary experiences and make them ecstatic and unfamiliar. They are products of imagination, the creators of new images despite everything seeable already existing.1 Though often considered an individual attribute, imagination is also collaborative, activated and verified by other people. The production of something mysterious relies on someone else to experience it as such. It hinges not only on another person’s ability to recognize a pattern in a set of signs, but also to invent new meaning. If imagination is a dependent capability, protecting the imaginations of others is a vital part of caring for oneself.
Warm in Winter
In 2007, I started to notice honeybees wobbling on my back stoop, disoriented and drained, uninterested in flowers. One would turn up every couple of weeks, stumbling in circles on the cement. I thought it might be a phenomenon unique to the microclimate just south of San Francisco’s Alamo Square Park; the clouds always broke over the hill, creating a warm patch of sky above the back door. Around the same time, worker bees all over the country were abandoning their hives, ignoring the flowers.
The first Haven (2011) hive sits atop a sixteen-foot-tall steel post anchored in a public park in Kansas City, Missouri. Jarett Mellenbruch undertook research to find a structure that would appeal to wild bees, one large enough to house a swarm but small enough to ensure that the bees would keep each other warm in winter. Three years later, he arrived at a box built from high-density polyethylene and wood, insulated like a hollow tree branch. His aim for Haven, which currently exists largely as a proposal, is to install one thousand of these elevated spaces in urban areas across the United States, challenging colony collapse and habitat loss by providing wild pollinators with new homes. In addition to making feral colonies available for study, the project also helps bees with their public relations. Mellenbruch’s structure looks like a birdhouse with an open gable roof, its white Corian exterior carved with false colonnades. A placard near the hive provides information about the bees, aping literature found in zoos and national parks. Quick Response (QR) codes on the plaques will link to more detail and to a page where visitors can offer up their observations of the hive.
When their hives get too crowded, bees relocate by sending out scouts. They collect information about a knot in a tree or a hole in a wall and return to convey this to the rest, wiggling a map that spells out where to find the site in relation to the sun. The intensity of a bee’s vibrations connotes its level of excitement, and each scout makes a case. Haven encourages this existing process by giving wild bees ideal places to dance about. It also uses the swarm as a metaphor for human activity; when enough hives are installed and the QR codes are in place, the project will create a network of amateur and expert beekeepers, park visitors, and ecologists. The project crowdsources on the bees’ behalf, mirroring the way they distribute responsibility to collect information. Years from now, the individual data points will accumulate into a narrative about wild pollinators, making it easier to monitor the health of the hive.