My visit to Floriade and subsequent excitement following the tagged bees has been documented before. My ‘friends’ Wilke and Marjon, and Naomi and Jenny and their trips to collect pollen or nectar occupied hours of my time. I am not sure that data is still being updated – you can check here to see what you think. This company really did inspire me with its ‘be a Bee’ project and wowed me with its use of technology. Actually ‘beeing’ at the exhibition was good, too, showing that the magic of doing adds something to technology and the internet because we can use our senses to a greater extent.
The greatest buzz of beekeeping comes from close examination of bee activity and fully understanding the processes in pollen and nectar collecting, honey creation and the way the colony works as an entity. Giving visitors to our project at Hughenden Manor the pleasure that comes from this knowledge has its challenges. Over the summer a variety of things have come together and our version of the ‘Be a Bee’ project is likely to be linked with geocaching, For an explanation of geocaching vsit this site. Basically it is like using a pirates treasure map to find a hidden ‘cache’.
Several aspects of this are very like bees finding sources of pollen or nectar. Bees go out foraging and if they find a new source they return to the hive and give instructions to their fellows of how to find the source. The other bees decide whether they are interested in this treasure or not. The instructions of how to find the source are encoded into aspects of the ‘waggle dance’ performed to the rest of the colony. Those who want to find the source for themselves use a navigation system which is quite complicated for us mere humans. It is based on distance information and bearings taken not from North but from the position of the sun and takes into account the changing position even if the sun is not visible.
Geocachers set a cache and typically share information about the cache and how to get there where other geocachers can access it (on the web). Others decide which interests them and they use those clues to get to the general location but may need to use their eyes and common sense to find the actual container which, whilst not buried like pirate’s treasure, is camouflaged to reduce the chance that ‘others’ find it and don’t appreciate what it is. In fact, if geocachers have homed in on the location and others approach, they feign resting or pausing to get breath. Between themselves they refer to these ‘others’ as muggles – hijacking the term given by J K Rowling to non magical beings. Having successfully found my first cache today I can confirm you may feel a bit of an idiot trying to see the treasure but the excitement of success is certainly almost magical!
So, our intention is to put some caches around Hughenden that will be documented on line. In that first cache will be information about a series of caches associated with the first and we have some ideas on a variation that will allow visitors to Hughenden – especially families who like the combination of outdoor activity with a touch of magic and a touch of knowledge – take away a small souvenir. However, the traditional geocachers won’t have to follow up that initial find.
One of these will be a Christmas activity I hope. We do have to get the detail checked with others at Hughenden Manor. We won’t want to encourage visitors in such a way they damage the grounds in their searches nor do we want them to damage themselves by searching precariously. Nor do we want the caches to look like rubbish or spoil the wonderful views.
So, if you plan to visit Hughenden or like this sort of activity – or are already geocachers – watch this space. We are particularly keen that we make this accessible to people without needing them to have very specialised equipment. If anyone has found a smartphone that works particularly well or has hints and tips we will be glad to hear them.