Using a GPS w/o mapping software
In the old days of bee hunting, there were wide open swaths of land. The bee hunter could tramp across miles without coming across a single man made barrier. This is rarely possible nowadays. And, in an urban/suburban environment you can't go more than a few hundred feet before you start trespassing on someone's property.
Using a GPS allows a bee hunter to continue walking an established bee line after circumnavigating an obstruction. This saves a lot of effort and lost time in a suburban area. It also allows a bee hunter to discontinue a hunt then pick up the trail at a later date.
Tracking an individual bee line can take some time. By documenting current location and the direction of a bee line, a bee hunter can give up the hunt then pick it up again when time is less scarce. This is a boon to the individual with a busy schedule who can only devote sporadic chunks of time to this activity.
Knowing the last known tracking position is easy in an urban environment. (corner of 5th and willow). But, should you venture into the woods or other open spaces, the way points are not easy to reestablish without cairns or other markers. Setting your last known location as a way point in your GPS makes it easy to get back on the hunt.
GPS technology certainly isn't needed to track bees. Rather it is a fun add-on to the experience. For me, it is a way to teach my daughter about GPS, mapping techniques and geographic information systems. (What six year doesn't want to know about this stuff?) For today's youth, technology is an ingrained part of their lives. So, don't let them know that they are learning something. It might scare them off! For my own kids, I like to teach both the old and new ways to accomplish the same task.
Using a GPS w/ Mapping Software
The picture above shows an image from a Google Earth map. On this map, I have indicated the locations of three bait stations we set up and the bee lines observed from each. The crossover points of the colored vectors indicate the approximate locations of feral bee hives. This is typical of the data that can be collected and shared.
By combining a GPS with mapping software, a bee hunter can multiply his or her efforts. The key is to set up bait stations at multiple locations, document the directions of the various bee lines you are likely to find, then input the data into Google Earth or other software. It is then easy to triangulate the data to get approximate locations for the bee nests. The bee hunter then takes up the chase again from a spot much closer to the bee hive. From here traditional bee lining techniques should be used.
Being closer to the nest should provide a larger number of foraging bees from which to establish a bee line, Being closer to the nest with a strong bee line should shorten the amount of time needed to home in on the nest. In this scenario, spending a bit of time up front with a GPS and some mapping software can shorten the amount of overall time needed to find a nest.
Mapping Land Areas
Using a GPS with mapping software allows an individual to gather information that will speed up the bee hunting process. This is especially true if the bee hunter wants to track down a large number of colonies in an area. In doing so, a bee hunter could spend hours, days or weeks gathering information about a large land area before ever tracking down an individual hive. The extra time taken to survey an area would speed up the time to track down individual hives using traditional bee lining techniques. This provides delayed gratification for tracking down hives. Only those of you who have taken their time to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop will understand!
Team Hunts & Triangulation
I have yet to try this, but it might be a fun twist on this activity. A group of bee hunters could simultaneously set up bait stations at multiple locations near each other. A 1/8 mile to 1/4 mile spacing between bait stations would be ideal. The team would spend time establishing and documenting bee lines. The time needed to establish a bee line as well as the number of bees flying along each bee line would help determine the closeness of any individual hive. This information could then be relayed via cell phone or via FRS/GMRS radio to one individual who would input the data into Google Earth or other mapping software. The group data would be aggregated so that the suspected hive locations could be triangulated. The bee hunters would then be directed towards their next way point to track down multiple hives. It might be fun to compete with other teams to see who could find more hives in a given time period.
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