my varroa hell
Welcome to the future. Sorry for the mess. Well, actually that’s your fault. It’s cleaner on the inside I promise. I’ll just buzz you in…
In 36 BC Marcus Terentius Varro proposed that the hexagon design bees like is the most full equilateral shape that tessellates. It has the minimum periphery which means the most honey, or living space in this case. The theory was mathematically proved in 1999 by Thomas Hales. Acoustically it’s not too noisy either – no right angles. Not that that matters since I got this problem with my ears.
The shell is aluminium and aerogel, 50% collector panels, 12 volt appliance wiring, super-insulated windows with liquid crystal shades for internal temperature control. Heat comes from either a wood stove or a peltier solid state heat pump running off ground heat, depending on how much power we need. Cooling, similarly. We cook in the solar oven on the side sometimes, but mainly on woodgas or in the microwave.
When I first found out that bees were starting to disappear I really freaked out the way I used to freak out you know when you’re a kid and you see the wrong movie at the wrong week and it just stays in your head and wrecks your life for a few years.
Listen, I’ll make you cappuccino. I have a Faema of my very own. You know what that is? It’s not the Dilettante’s plastic kitchen model. It’s one of those real restaurant espresso machines with an eagle on top. I’ve been off work since the buzzing started. Too disorientating to direct bicycle traffic by body-popping and blowing a whistle. There’s other stuff, like my fingernails coming off and these weird course hairs. I’ve been getting drone allowance since then – you have to donate your sperm to the state, go to the Hand Job Centre (trans drones get Eggs Benefit). Families are disastrous for your mental health. So are relationships. These are outmoded concepts for us.
I keep my wordthingpersons in my medicine cabinet: the three wine corks are MY, VARROA, HELL. Since the vast servers that power the cloud-based internet keep blinking on and off, we’ve been experimenting with swarm-based internet technology premised on the fact that insects co-ordinate reams of information without the need for any centralised databases. Also it’s good for Alzheimer’s.
This is where I keep my food. I got Sichuan pears from the food bank – the only other thing they had was lab-raised cheese burgers which I can’t stand since they learnt to make them too realistic. Because I never used to eat meat before anyway. I got tons of dandelions, that’s the main thing I eat. Then there’s this fake honey stuff, Phoney. I just use that if I need to take the taste of cheese burger away when they don’t have any pears in the bank.
Being on the drone is Okay, you get to sit around reading old cli-fi novels and perusing artefact based movie-worlds. My teal green Fender Jazz bass, a rare colour, it was discontinued. The pick-ups are totally rusted but I still like to play. In fact there’s so far you can go with music with just abstract thought and vibrations I often wonder whether the audible part is all that important. Put your hands on the table and I’ll play you my favourite riff.
Marx said that what makes the worst architect better than the best of bees is that they make some kind of plan first. But wait, do they need to make a plan to make the plan? And so on? What if they make the plan automatically, neither toiling nor spinning, in a state of grace. The map is its own territory. Comb ready for use is known as drawn comb and wax was one of the first substances to bare human inscription.
Sometimes I get maudlin. I found this old copy of ‘Sniffin’ Propolis’, a bee fanzine from 2012: ‘Nature is like a kind of celebrity. We look to it for escapism, we project onto it all these ideas of holism and health and strength and perfection, completion, that you don’t really feel living life from the inside. We build it up and knock it down without stopping to think – hey maybe it’s the same for them as it is for us.
‘Now I’m looking after a colony of bees I don’t want to treat them like celebrities. On the course I went on they were always opening up the hive which was designed so you could survey them, frame by frame, like paparazzi. It would be nice to let the bees make their own comb, just the way they want in the privacy of darkness, and regulate the temperature of their home without it being screwed with.
‘The bees are celebrities. We feel like we know them but we don’t. They’re shorter in real life. Celebrity can be good. Think of fans. Fans aren’t united by nationalism, creed, colour or even belief or knowledge. They celebrate the same thing and that’s enough and that’s how it works with the bees. The bees can introduce people to each other and foster friendship, the same way they introduce flowers to each other and allow them to reproduce, the same way we fall in love to pop music and movies. There is something self-sacrificing about celebrity, they mediate our relationships, they are always between and so can’t impose themselves as real things in their own right.
‘I work in the café across the street. One of my jobs is to buy the cheapest honey possible from Tescos: cheap bulk honey that’s been laundered from China and India, stripped of pollen, diluted, flown millions of bee miles in bumblejets, round and round the globe, then decanted into cute artisan pots to go with hipsters’ waffles, then rinsing the leftovers down the sink. Plus I have to mow the clover and rip out the wild flower meadow that springs untidily from the gravel pathway like nose whiskers, for the prissy people on the private housing estate who pay me to do grounds maintenance, pausing to let the stoned bees get last orders in.
‘All the early computer generated animated feature films were about insects. Antz, A Bug’s Life, Starship Troopers. What is this collusion between primordial life forms and contemporary media technology? The ticky stop-motion way they move, the infinite hardness and smoothness of their armour, the way they appear in vast co-ordinated numbers, like they’ve been copied and pasted. The sea was one of the first things God made. If He was using a computer He would have saved it to last, along with fluffy things and things that move at all smoothly. The world wide web is named after a sticky trap you can’t escape. When the prime minister was called out for referring to immigrants in Calais as a swarm, wasn’t this apiphobic? A swarm is simply a highly intelligent and organised assemblage of people waiting to find somewhere to live. Didn’t insects invent civilisation and agriculture? Every single company now has a hexagon for its logo. Are we hot-desking and zero-houring and smart-phoning and neo-conning and neo-nicotinoiding and disrupting and accelerating our way into an insectoid future?’
[The third paragraph is taken from Vinay Gupta http://www.appropedia.org/User:Vinay_Gupta/The_Unplugged. Paragraph four is taken from a You Tube interview with Douglas Coupland. The fourth sentence of paragraph one and the description of the coffee machine in paragraph five is from the 1986 remake of The Fly. The last three sentences of paragraph five are from Red Dwarf, Holoship]