Working Past Bees for Long-Distance WiFi Networking
Planning an installation in a remote area asks for a lot of careful thought: one doesn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere missing a specific piece of equipment thus having to drive back several kilometers to complete the work. The unexpected being expected, even after several installations, you are never too cautious. But, what level of ’unexpectedness’ can a tower full of wasp nest be?
Bees in general are not really harmful to humans. Living in a tropical country you have been stung enough by these insects to know if you are of the allergic type. At best if you have a cold or indigestion it may cure you. This level of risk falls into the category of negligible.
But talking of something and seeing it right in front of you are two different things. The colors, the noise, the menacing zigzags and of course old memories, all this being put together, you think twice before even starting to put on the climbing gears. And just when your courage is at a sufficient level to face the wasp, local superstitions shatter it in thousands of pieces.
I am Jeffrey Carre of Transversal and recently we had to verify an old installation at Pont-Sonde, a small town on the way to Gonaive, pass St Marc in Haiti. With no hills to climb, and the site being right in the middle of the town, it’s not a difficult site.
Food and water are at hand ad you don’t have to drive a long way to get to a passable road. The aiming is generally easy in such a flat land that these usually take half a day of work to setup everything and pass the acceptance test. But…
“They can give you a fever so unbearable that you may not have enough time to go to the hospital,” the guardian says. Some time ago our townsfolk pride would have us walk past that statement with a “Let me show you how we do things,” tone and maybe we would have shamefully been victim of that ego… But today that bee problem was taken seriously. The questions is how to get pass that problem:
- Bug spray is a real bad way the get rid of them – it kills some and infuriates the rest. They fall on the ground and fly back at you right away with their last remaining breath. And personally seeing all those creatures fall and die, you cannot help to think of yourself as an evil, heartless person (just a little).
- Smoke. Yes but you have to climb high enough to reach them and they are sometimes in unexpected places. You have to use it on your way up and also, less easy, on the way down. Every nest that is on your path must be submitted to smoke for long enough to drowse the wasps. We don’t have that time.
- Gas/oil. We once used this to repel hornets from the lightning arrestors they were using to construct their mud nest. We didn’t have enough with us and we couldn’t think of a good way to spread it.
- Fire, same almost as smoke but for clear reasons, not a good solution.
- Luck, hopefully you go up and don’t put your hand right in the middle of a nest. We engineers prefer not to play with luck to much. We prefer quantifiable and measurable facts, but then again, sometimes it surprises you pleasantly.
The guardian happened to be a beekeeper and had in his possession a pair of protective suits and it would only take him 5 minutes to get them for us. No need to tell what a relief he was to us. Maybe he enjoyed being our hero but he continued to help us by reassuring us. We learned that:
- Bees, wasps, and hornets only attack when they sense danger. So if we calmly approach them they will stay away from us.
- They tend to build their nest at a specific height, not to high to avoid strong currents and not to low to avoid the heat and natural enemies. So as soon as we pass that “activity zone” there is no need to watch out for them.
- And the most beautiful part: bees are a sign of life and hope, and as we are spreading life and hope via our Internet installation they are doing the same with the flower pollen.
We put on the protective suits under the climbing gears and started to work. And as the day goes by, I couldn’t help to think of the bees working as group, coordinating their movements, each taking care of a specific task.
This was at our 3rd site of the day and the sun was getting low on the sky. As we climbed down the tower and started to pack, nature was slowly falling asleep and even the bees were regaining the house. Their nests that were once very busy spots during the day were now calm – technology and nature in quiet harmony.