Bees are important. I find myself saying this a lot and, slowly but surely, the media seems to be coming to this realisation too. The plight of the bee is finally being brought to our attention with increasing urgency.
In the UK, bee colonies are suffering mass losses. Due to the use of bee-killing fertilisers and pesticides within the farming industry, the decline of pollen-rich plants, the destruction of hives by mites, and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), bees are in decline at a worrying pace.
One hint of a silver lining is that increasing awareness of the crisis has led to a rise in the number of beekeeping hobbyists. As getting your hands on some bees is now as simple as ordering a box from the internet, keeping bees in your garden is a much less daunting venture than it once was.
Taking this one step further, beekeepers are now using tech to monitor the conditions of their bees, improving conditions for their buzzy workforce while also recording data which can then feed into studies attempting to lessen the decline of the bee.
WDLabs recently donated a PiDrive to the Honey Bee Gardens Project in order to help beekeeper David Ammons and computer programmer Graham Toal create The Hive Project, an electric beehive colony that monitors real-time bee data.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is decidedly mysterious. Colonies hit by the disease seem to simply disappear. The hive itself often remains completely intact, full of honey at the perfect temperature, but… no bees. Dead or alive, the bees are nowhere to be found.
To try to combat this phenomenon, the electric hive offers 24/7 video coverage of the inner hive, while tracking the conditions of the hive population.
Ultimately, the team aim for the data to be crowdsourced, enabling researchers and keepers to gain the valuable information needed to fight CCD via a network of electric hives. While many people blame the aforementioned pollen decline and chemical influence for the rise of CCD, without the empirical information gathered from builds such as The Hive Project, the source of the problem, and therefore the solution, can’t be found.
Ammons and Toal researched existing projects around the use of digital tech within beekeeping, and they soon understood that a broad analysis of bee conditions didn’t exist. While many were tracking hive weight, temperature, or honey population, there was no system in place for integrating such data collection into one place. This realisation spurred them on further.
“We couldn’t find any one project that took a broad overview of the whole area. Even if we don’t end up being the people who implement it, we intend to create a plan for a networked system of low-cost monitors that will assist both research and commercial beekeeping.”
With their mission statement firmly in place, the duo looked toward the Raspberry Pi as the brain of their colony. Finding the device small enough to fit within the hive without disruption, the power of the Pi allowed them to monitor multiple factors while also using the Pi Camera Module to record all video to the 314GB storage of the Western Digital PiDrive.
Data recorded by The Hive Project is vital to the survival of the bee, the growth of colony population, and an understanding of the conditions of the hive in changing climates. These are issues which affect us all. The honey bee is responsible for approximately 80% of pollination in the UK, and is essential to biodiversity. Here, I should hand over to a ‘real’ bee to explain more about the importance of bee-ing…