Reimagining the Honey Bee through Indoor Hives
This project addresses the wicked problem of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the current perceptions of the honey bee. Currently, honey bees are rapidly disappearing as a result of various human actions including pesticides, monoculture, and loss of native flower species. Bees are necessary to human life not because of the honey they provide, but because of their efficient pollination. A problem that today’s culture faces is the lack of personal concern for the state of bees. This is due to an educational and relational disconnect between honey bees and humans. The goal of this indoor observational beehive is to bridge the gap between bees and humans by allowing the everyday person to keep bees in his or her home with little maintenance in a hive that they would want to show off. The hive was designed to be accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, whether they live in a house or an apartment. It requires no change to a person’s residence and will be sold at a lower price compared to alternatives. The hive also encourages the customers to become more educated about honey bees and get involved with their local beekeeping community. As a result, more of society will be personally invested in the lives of honey bees and will hopefully share in the movement to save the bees from CCD. In today’s day in age, it requires lots of people’s voices of concern and call to action in order to change the trajectory of businesses like agriculture and beekeeping.
Our goal for our final project for Sticky Innovation was to come up with a solution to a “wicked problem.” We began by spending a class brainstorming any idea we could think of for possible projects. Even if the projects were not feasible, we wrote them all down and considered them. At the end of the class, we started to narrow our ideas down to ones that interested us. During the next class we thought about what we would try to achieve with each of our projects and decided on building an indoor hive. We hoped that an indoor hive would popularize the idea of beekeeping, bridge the gap between people and bees, and have people become more educated about bees. We initially designed a model and worked out all the details that would be necessary for a hive that bees can actually live in. The hive was made utilizing many features of the 1819 Innovation Hub which allowed us to learn more about using the CNC, the laser cutter, and the 3D printers. We ran into several errors while making our prototype hive, but it allowed us to learn of better ways to construct the hive that we wouldn’t have thought of without the prototype. I focused on making the user guide which would allow the owner of the hive to learn the functions of the hive and how to properly maintain it and care for the bees. We strongly encouraged the user to get involved in the local beekeeping community to help keep their bees alive and educate them on issues about the bees.
While we were focused on making the physical prototype and writing the user guide, we really stopped having to focus on how our product would solve a “wicked problem”. I was worried that our prototype wasn’t turning out as expected, so I wasn’t thinking about the importance of the idea itself. Preparing for the presentation allowed me to look at the bigger picture and see all the possibilities of how an indoor hive can benefit the bees. Overall, I feel this project tied into what we had discussed throughout the semester about Arts Based Research. Not only did we learn many details about bee hives and keeping bees alive, but we were able to use this project as a way to come up with unique ideas for ways to help the bees. Prototyping the hive and typing out the reasons for all the features helped me learn in a way that simply reading the information couldn’t. I don’t think I would continue improving on this specific project due to my limited access to resources to build it, but I feel compelled to use Arts Based Research to find unique solutions to problems in the future.
Earlier this semester, I was required to choose a book about bees to read and create a group presentation about the book. The options of books ranged from a fictional book about a bee named Flora who tries to break from Hive Books to books that presented research and information about bees and colony collapse disorder. I ended up choosing to read Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive by Mark L. Winston. Each chapter of this book covered a different topic but overall covered what the author had learned throughout his career about the behaviors of bees and their interaction with people. This book brought up concerns about how human interaction with bees is ultimately responsible for the rapid decline of the bee population. The book also connected human behaviors to the behaviors which causes us to ask what we can learn from bees and the problems they face. Our presentation (presentation slides attached below) briefly went over each chapter and then focused on quotes from the book and discussed what questions and takeaways we were able to get from them. Reading this book as research gave me a detailed background into the behaviors of bees and information about how humans have always depended on them. The author was an expert in his field which caused the book to be very informative and allowed me to ask new questions and see that when humans solve problems, they often create several new unforeseen issues. Watching the other groups present on their books gave me further perspective and allowed me to see that even fictional books can be informative and used as research.
We recently had our fishbowl discussion in class. This consisted of three 30-minute discussions on different topics. One third of the class would discuss a topic while the rest of the class had to observe and was unable to participate or interject in any way. I participated in the third discussion, so I only observed for the first two topics. It really didn’t bother me that I was unable to participate because I really enjoy sitting back and listening to others’ opinions and perspectives. There were some moments where I felt that I had something to say, but I never felt frustrated that I was unable to say it. I had a much more difficult time participating in the discussion because I became nervous, feeling as if the people watching were judging what I was saying. I discussed the topic of Arts Based Research. We discussed how fiction could be classified as research, how it can generate knowledge, and how it is effective. Everyone in my discussion agreed that certain works of fiction could be classified as research and convey knowledge, but there are also works of fiction that may not try to convey any information and is not based on any facts. I quickly became more comfortable in the discussion, forgetting that everyone was watching, but I much preferred observing where I could just listen instead of focusing on what I’m going to say.
The goal of the Ideal Project was to come up with an idea for the “ideal bee” then create a model showing the modifications we would make. In the past these models were all 3D printed, but we were able to use any of the machines and resources in the 1819 Innovation Hub. The idea for the ideal bee was to be based on our knowledge of the bee, but it didn’t have to be feasible. My team brainstormed several ideas for small changes we could make, but we decided we wanted to create a completely different kind of bee, the medic bee. The role of this bee would be completely different from the other bees. Instead of being a worker bee or queen bee, its only role would be to keep the bees in the hive healthy, ensuring the survival of the hive. We started by creating a low-fidelity prototype of our medic bee. Since we had limited resources, we decided to build it out of clay. The bee’s fur and wings were removed, because they would have no benefit for a bee who never leaves the kid. We replaced the stinger with a syringe that would inject the bees with healing medicine. We also added a tube to the prototype that would spray water on the bees to remove pesticides. The entire class’s prototypes looked nothing like bees, but it was fun to see what everyone had managed to put together and hear the concepts behind the prototypes.
For the actual model, we decided to use 3D modeling. None of us had used Solidworks or done 3D modeling before, so we wanted to be able to learn how to use the 3D printers through this project. Since none of us had any experience with Solidworks, we were advised to use Tinkercad, a free program that is simpler and easy to use. The problem with this program is that it only allows you to put together basic shapes, and we were trying to use complex shapes to build a model of a bee. Unfortunately, most of our time was spent trying to create the shape of a bee on Tinkercad rather than making modifications to the bee. One thing we were able to add was a pre-designed honey comb, which we ended up using to emphasize that the medic bee doesn’t leave the hive (and so you could tell it was a bee and not an ant). Our final model had no wings or fur like our prototype. We were unable to add the syringe to the model, but we removed the tube to spray water and added claws to remove mites.
In our presentation, we went over our model and the idea behind it. I did not expect the array of questions we would receive. We had to come up with several possible explanations for features of a bee that does not actually exist. How does the bee create the medicine for the syringe, and does it change based on the needs of each bee? Is the medic bee bred differently like the queen bee is? This made me start to think past our ideas for what could be improved, and start thinking about how these modifications would affect the hive as a whole. We weren’t actually modifying a bee, but in reality, many genetic modifications have unforeseen consequences. Our idea for a medic bee may have ended up hurting more than it could help. Maybe bees in their current state are already ideal.
My Sticky Innovation class recently visited the Live Well Collaborative. Knowing nothing about who they were or what they did, I immediately wondered how this relates to bees and our course. As we walked in, we saw several displays up of projects they’ve completed to solve problems. The displays were creative and drew my attention. For example, they created their own version of the game Clue as a part of their display of home designs that will meet the needs of the elderly. Once everyone settled in, we began to learn about Live Well Collaborative, and it became immediately apparent how it connected to our course. Their goal is to solve problems by using a multidisciplinary approach, which is one of the main goals of our course. Live Well is hired to find solutions through design and creative thinking. They have people with all different types of skills working on their projects, so they are able to come up with a solution that solves multiple aspects of a problem. One thing that surprised me was that they seemed to do everything from the design to a product being built on their own. Even the displays in the office were created by them. I found it fascinating to see real examples of how multidisciplinary design is utilized since we have been discussing it so much.
We then went downstairs to the Maker Space on the ground floor. I had no idea that it was even there, so I was amazed when we walked down to see it. The Maker Space is opening soon and will be able to be used by all UC students. It seemed to have any machine you could possibly think of to bring a design to life. We learned about the 3D printers, laser cutters, and more. It made me extremely eager to utilize the technology available there, but I had no idea what I would use it for. It was suggested that we could use the tools for our final projects, but I still couldn’t think of how I would use anything there. Then, it was suggested that we could determine which machine we wanted to learn how to use, and the idea for how to incorporate it into our project would come later. This seemed like thinking backwards to me, but it introduced me to another way of brainstorming ideas to solve a problem.
Our first field experience for Sticky Innovation was to Greenacres. Beforehand, all I knew was that they had hives of bees, but they weren’t doing too well. I wasn’t sure if I should expect bees constantly flying around everywhere, but when I arrived, it felt like just a regular farm. When we arrived, we learned a little bit about the bees’ communication and how the bees use dances to communicate the angle and distance of food based on the angle of the sun. Afterwards, we went outside and tried to observe the bees firsthand. It was still chilly out, around 60°F and cloudy, so it was difficult to initially find any bees whose ideal weather is 70°F and sunny. As someone who is afraid of being stung, I didn’t imagine myself being so willing to get so close to bees to observe, but since the bees were so focused on their job of getting nectar from plants, pollinating as they go, they seemed unbothered by us getting close to take pictures. One thing I noticed about their behavior, is that they only went to a few flowers on each plant, then would fly off to the next. Did they receive communication about which flowers still had nectar? Could they sense which had not been visited? Were they perhaps leaving these for the other bees? I also observed that the honeybees only pollinated one specific type of flower, whereas the other bees went to several different types. These native bees were found just as commonly as the honeybee. We were told that they are more solitary, and don’t use the same communication methods that the honeybees use.
We eventually arrived upon the hives. We were told to stay away from the them, so we wouldn’t bother the bees. There were three hives of different heights with bees flying around them. The makeup of the hive was explained to us. The bottom was where the bees lived and where the queen was located. The top was where honey was stored, and there was a barrier between the levels, so the queen would be unable to lay eggs in the honey. We were told about how taking too much honey can be harmful for the bees, because they will not have enough nectar to sustain themselves through the winter. This made me wonder how many hives have collapsed because too much honey was taken. How do they know the right amount of honey they can take? Does a long or harsh winter mean that they must leave more honey for the bees, and do they account for that? I was surprised that each hive had a personality. Some were more relaxed while others were more aggressive. Through my observations, I was able to see firsthand the strange behaviors of bees and how that allows them to be efficient pollinators. I was able to get up close to bees while they were working which allowed me to understand their behavior in a way that I couldn’t understand from simply reading about them. This of course prompted many more questions and sparked more curiosity about the life of a bee.