A Digital Beehive Can Warn Beekeepers When their Hives are Under Attack

A Digital Beehive Can Warn Beekeepers When their Hives are Under Attack

The digital beehive

A digital beehive is the physically designed beehive with digital sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity, hive weight etc. and control beehives remotely from the smartphone. From the hive weight readings, beekeepers know when to harvest their honey. They also can track stolen beehives from GPS locations, and detect bee foraging patterns from the bee counter reading. The sensor can be designed to provide data which will interpret the health of the bee colony.

A CSIRO entomologist in Tasmania, Professor, Paulo de Souza, is gluing tiny RFID chips to bees, intend to track generational impacts of pesticide exposure and also genetically modified pollen.

An artist in Brussels, Anne Marie Maes, is sampling sounds through beehive embedded piezoelectric microphones; the aim is to recognize hive health by identifying patterns in the audio datasets.

An app Eyes On Hives system uses cameras to optically track individual bee movements by using an approach similar to image recognition systems. It develops day-to-day signatures of the bee activities, from which changes in hive conditions can be detected early and take necessary action accordingly.

Honey Bee Foraging

Honey bee foraging consists of several behavioral components, such as: (1) search for food, (2) identification and memorization of food source location, (3) carrying and storing of food, and (4) interaction and communication.

Bee hive design

Beehive design is very important because, the beehive itself plays a key role in increasing honey bee resilience. That is why, a typical Langstroth bee hive design did not changed for many years, i.e. since its invention in the 1850s.

A Digital Beehive Can Warn Beekeepers When their Hives are Under Attack
A typical Langstroth bee hive design

A Langstroth beehive provides a plethora of design opportunities to greatly benefit both beekeepers and the bees. Beekeepers need to inspect their hives regularly to ensure the health of the colony, the laying pattern of the queen, the quantity of honey and also, to detect pests and diseases. A Langstroth beehive is so practical,  and popular, that its design has not changed in almost 160 years, until now.

The inspection process involves disassembling the beehive into all its component parts, inspecting each frame, then reassembling them in previous place and then move to the next colony. The hive tools used for opening the hive (and other components) may be responsible for infection from bacterial diseases like American Foulbrood, and it can quickly destroy a healthy beehive.

The recently designed FlowHive drains honey from a comb without requiring its removal, but the brood of the colony still needs to be examined and monitored in the conventional way using protective gear and a smoker.

FlowHive drains honey from a comb without requiring its removal.Flow Hive drains honey from a comb without its removal.

The Digital beehive plans are available free and online, in a continual state of iteration as FabLabs and maker spaces around the world to create a new 3D printed prototypes.

Odor sensing and disease detection

With digital sensors being introduced into the beehive, and the advances in odor sensing technology and its application, it may be possible to identify human disease, environmental toxicity and food contamination. So, Odor sensing can be used for early detection of honey bee disease.

The beekeepers experience the most significant losses worldwide for the rapid decline of honey bees. By investigating the use of odor sensors for honeybee hive health, beekeepers can capture real-time data for early diagnosis to prevent the catastrophic losses of honey bee populations worldwide.

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Remember, Honey bees are responsible for pollinating crops which worth more than US$19 billion, and for producing US$385 million in honey, a year in the United States. And honey bee production is an A$92-million industry in Australia.

But, unfortunately, honey bees are disappearing worldwide at an alarming rate since 1990, and more than 25% of the managed honeybee population in the US has already been disappeared.

Why is this happening?

It’s commonly believed that the decline has mainly been attributed to a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD), and by the combined effect of interrelated factors that weaken hive health which include shifting flowering seasons due to climate change, reduced floral diversity, use of pesticides, habitat loss, lack of genetic diversity, insect parasites and also, harmful microorganisms.


Research assistance provided by Dan Cook, industrial design student at QUT, who was awarded a Vacation Research Experience Scholarship to work on this research project.


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