Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Checking in With the Bees—The NSA Can Help!

The bees were active this weekend.
          So K has been doing some reading about how to tell if your hives are overwintering okay without actually opening them up and exposing the bees to cold temperatures and killing them. In the beekeeping community, this is frowned upon as poor sportsmanship, not to mention lousy husbandry.

          It turns out you can put a stethoscope against the hive and listen. Hives that are still alive will hum. K thought this was a pretty keen idea, and was all about looking for a used stethoscope until he came across the article that said what you really need to see how the bees are doing in the winter when you can't open the hive is a thermal imaging camera.

          K showed me the article and the pictures and we agreed a thermal imaging camera would be a cool addition to the beekeeping gear. We also agreed that stethoscopes were way too low-tech for any self-respecting modern beekeeper even to consider.

          "So how much do these thermal imaging cameras cost?" I asked.

          "Oh, a couple thousand dollars," K said offhandedly.

          After an extended silence, I said, "You know, high-tech is kind of overrated. We're talking about bees, after all. The last technical innovation in beekeeping was in 1852 when Reverend Langstroth patented a top-opening, movable-frame hive that the bees couldn't cement shut with propolis. I think that the whole point of beekeeping is for it to be low-tech."

          K did that raised-eyebrow-look thing that he does.

          "Plus it's kind of creepy," I continued. "Spying on bees with thermal imaging cameras. It's stalkerish."

          "That's not really a word," K said.

          I ignored him. "Hey, I just got an idea. I bet the NSA has thermal imaging cameras. And I bet when they're not collecting all our telecoms data, they're out thermal-imaging things."

          "Why on earth would they do that?"

          "Sweetie, the motto of the NSA is whatever the Latin is for, 'Privacy Schmivacy.' If they have thermal imaging cameras—and you know they do; that's Standard-Issue Spy Kit—they are using them."

          K rolled his eyes. "Not on bees."
         "Not yet, maybe." I did a quick google ("terrorism keywords") and came up with a list of 300+ words that the government considers as threat flags (not making this up, kids. For the article and list of words, click here.) I chose a few of them and then took out my phone and dialed my dad (our hives are out at his place), putting him on Speaker.

          "Hey Dad," I said when he picked up. "Have you had any standoffs* lately with ecoterrorist gangs of bees wielding biological weapons, leading to a state of emergency?"

          There was a longish pause on Dad's end, and then he replied, cautiously, "Well, there were no biological incidents today. Yesterday, though, there was some exposure to an infrastructure security situation that culminated in a terror attack by a suicide bomber bee. My arm is really swelled up where it stung me."**

          I shot K a smug look. "Give them a couple of days to get a field agent out there and then file a Freedom of Information Act request. You'll have your thermal image without having to pay a dime."

          "You live to take something simple and straightforward and turn it into a byzantine mass of complication, don't you?" he said.

          "Pretty much," I replied.

You don't need thermal imaging technology to tell that this hive is doing very well, thanks.

*Italicized words in this conversation come directly from the Terrorism Keywords list.
**My dad is a master. Give him a few notes, and he'll vamp up a whole song.

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