Can IoT-based beehive apps help save the bees?

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Author – Viswatej Kampati

Source: Flickr

Honey bees play a crucial role in our everyday lives, either directly or indirectly. They have been around for more than 100 million years or so, but it wasn’t until a few thousand years ago that we started to grasp their potential role in the sustenance of human life on Earth. But due to the excessive exploitation of these life-supporting creatures, the bee population has been on a steep decline over the last 25 years.

Large numbers of bees have disappeared most probably due to massive spraying of pesticides, which resulted in a catastrophic fall in honeybee populations. This phenomenon came to be known as ’Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD). It occurs when the majority of worker bees in a beehive colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees. This leads to an ecological imbalance in the bee population, which in turn will result in a major disturbance in horticulture.

Bees are responsible for plant reproduction through pollination, therefore, the absence of bees will severely affect the production of food crops and in turn human life. Thus, it is crucial to take sustainable measures for ensuring the survival and expansion of the bee population.

IoT beehive app to the rescue

Source: Flickr

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a new concept of connecting any device to the Internet and to other connected devices. It is a giant network of connected things and people – all of which collect and share data about the way they are used and about the environment around them. The Internet of Things is bridging the rift between technology and the natural world by providing eco-friendly startups with solutions to overcome some of the most prevailing environmental concerns in the present day. 

Domestic beekeeping or ‘Apiculture’ ranges from a solo enthusiast with a few hives to large commercial ventures that assist crop pollination for horticulture. Acting quickly when a hive is in trouble helps save bees. Usually, this means regular hive visits and a degree of disruption to daily bee life. The IoT-based beehive app technology can offer real-time fast updates to beekeepers from a distance.

Apiarists are often advised not to perform regular surveillance of hives as it may cause cultivation issues due to the disturbance, and in the worst-case, reduced level of honey production. This is where E-surveillance comes in handy by offering instant updates to the beekeepers without physically disturbing the beehives.

Practical Beehive Applications

Tejas Shahakar works for Raw Forest Honey, a social enterprise that helps villagers to extract forest honey in rural India. He was struggling to find a solution that helps villagers in finding the right beehive and extract the optimum amount of honey without harming the bee population. He needed the right technology solution that monitored the beehive regularly and gave accurate information.

Although there aren’t many organizations in India working with this IoT idea presently, Tejas found an efficient solution in the beehive apps offered by Gobuzzr India. The organization offers a mobile application for the maintenance and development of honey bees by encompassing IoT and ICT technologies integrated with bioacoustics to perform regular monitoring of beehives.

Gobuzzr’s beehive surveillance device monitors statistical information like weight, temperature, and humidity. It is fixed to the bottom of a beehive and sends notifications to beekeepers about any change to the conditions affecting the hive. The collected information will be aggregated and will be sent to the owner’s device at regular intervals of time.

The beehive app device shares the accurate location of the hive, so that the keepers can easily find it and conduct an in-person inspection if required. The data collected and shared by the IoT device provides the beekeepers the necessary in-depth information required to take any decision regarding the location and the performance of the hive, to ensure maximum profit while maintaining a healthy bee colony.

Real-time data collected through IoT monitoring is surely more effective than in-person inspection, which helps beekeepers obtain a more ideal understanding of bee behavior in their colonies. Generally, a wide setup of sensors is installed in the beehive to monitor any changes that may take place. The general factors and conditions that are frequently measured and monitored are:

  • Humidity and temperature: The atmosphere around the hive along with other climate factors is monitored. Beekeepers can receive an immediate notification when the temperature or humidity levels turn unfavorable.
  • Weighing scale: The weight of the beehive is monitored by a simple setup of an electronic balance scale or a spring- mount. This helps in understanding the development of the bee colonies throughout the harvest season.
  • Acoustics and vibrations: The buzzing sound of the bees can also indicate the health of a hive. Monitoring vibrations, along with the acoustic conditions of the hive provides a broader overview of bee health.

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