The Surprising Relationship Between Bees and the Internet


Many of our advancements in technology were inspired by nature. An example is the bullet train in Japan. The famous form of public transportation made a very loud and alarming boom every time it passed through a tunnel. Although the speed of the train was very impressive, the noise was a very huge problem.

Fortunately, one of the engineers of the train was an avid bird-watcher. So upon observing a kingfisher dive into the water to catch fish, it made a very minimal disturbance. He tried to understand how the bird did this. And that’s how he found that the pointed shape of their beaks helped with the noise. So he went back to the drawing table and developed the iconic design of the bullet train. Today, it has a pointed nose that eliminated the loud boom.

This is an example of how nature and technology developed a relationship with each other. One inspires the other. And this kind of relationship also applies to honeybees and the internet. It’s a surprising relationship. But it’s one that’s rooted in codependence and inspiration.

How Honeybees Inspired the Development of the Internet

The story of the honeybees and the internet started in 1988 at Georgia Institute of Technology or Georgia Tech. John Hagood Vande Vate, a professor of engineering, found inspiration in an interview on NPR with Thomas Seeley, a honeybee researcher from Cornell University. Seeley described how a honeybee colony worked by distributing themselves among a local flower garden without having a central authority figure.


Then Vande Vate thought of an idea. What if data worked the same way as honeybees? What if they distributed themselves to efficiently transport data from one device to another? Driven by his idea, Vande Vate recruited fellow engineers. John Batholdi and Craig Tovey worked with him. They spent two years researching how bees work. Their goal was to find out how honeybees’ operation may be applied to how data was shared through the internet. Through this research, they developed the Honeybee Algorithm.

A few years later, Sunil Nakrani joined their research. He’s a computer scientist from the University of Oxford. With this algorithm, engineers found it easier to transport data. It helped develop a more efficient route for internet traffic. This, ultimately, made internet access faster for everyone. The hard work of the Honeybee Algorithm paid off. They won the 2016 Golden Goose Award.

How the Internet is Helping the Honeybees Survive

With the worsening effects of climate change, the honeybee population is also declining. National Geographic found that in some areas, the decline was as high as 90 percent in recent years. This is due to the increasing use of pesticides, the spread of disease, and the changing use of land.

Beekeeping is a small way of helping bee colonies survive. Beekeepers have been using a porter bee escape for years to harvest honey from them. But the internet helps them monitor and maintain the colonies. With various apps, beekeepers are able to easily trade goods and supplies with fellow beekeepers. This helps in promoting beekeeping not just as a hobby but as a livelihood. An example is AsisProtect. It’s a small device that’s attached to the bottom of the beehive roof. This device would monitor and alert the beekeeper if the hive is underperforming and needs help.

Another example is the Global Hive Network. It’s the world’s first hive-monitoring project on a global scale. It helps in monitoring the hives around the world. It gathers data on the behavior of honeybee populations and how they’re affected by various threats. Such threats include weather patterns and pesticides.

The honeybees and the internet have a relationship that most people don’t realize. Their relationship is a standing proof of how the environment and technology can help each other develop and survive.

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