BuzzBox sensor system listens to honey bees & alerts beekeeper of colony issues

BuzzBox sensor on beehive

Beekeepers will soon be able to track the health of their colonies right from their smartphone.

The team behind Open Source Beehives is back with another beekeeping innovation, the BuzzBox, which is intended to not only inform beekeepers about the health of their hives, but to also contribute open data to researchers working on the decline of honey bee populations.

The BuzzBox is a solar-powered plug-in beehive sensor that enables users to monitor the activities in their colonies by listening to and analyzing the sounds in the hives. Along with tracking the internal and external temperatures of the hives, and the humidity and barometric pressure, a microphone monitors a hive's sounds and passes those "honeybee audio signals" on to a real-time audio analysis system that delivers "hive health updates" to the user's smartphone via an app.

According to Open Source Bee Hives (OSBH), the company has compiled thousands of hours of beehive audio, and its team of data scientists has built a monitoring system to determine the current state of the hive based on its "beehive audio classification system." Along with alerting users of theft or invasion of the hives, the BuzzBox also currently tracks pre-swarming and swarming behavior, the sounds of a colony missing its queen, and the telltales of a collapsed hive, and the system may also soon be able to detect the presence of varroa mites, wax moths, and exposure to pesticides that will harm the colony.

OSBH says that it has been working with researchers to gather data from a number of hives that have been exposed to "a variety of pesticides," with the hope that the honey bees in exposed hives generate a unique audio signal that can be detected by the BuzzBox. If so, future updates to the device will include pesticide detecting features, which could then deliver real-time alerts to beekeepers if their colonies are exposed to potentially toxic pesticides.

"The goal is two-fold. By identifying when colonies reach a state of near-collapse, we can correlate their signals with hypothesized causes, such as pesticide exposure and parasite infestation. And we can warn beekeepers of imminent danger so they can intervene and attempt to save their hives." - Aaron Makaruk, OSBH co-founder

BuzzBox is designed to function fully autonomously, with the device enclosed in a weather resistant body and powered by a small solar panel, and the data being transmitted via WiFi (data transmittal via GSM is currently in development). The audio analysis system is said to employ machine learning so as to "get smarter over time," and all of the data gathered by the devices will be open source and publicly available for study, with the aim of contributing to the global work being done on colony collapse disorder (CCD), pesticide exposure, and bee colony health.

"We want the hives to be able to identify when bees have been exposed to pesticides so that as soon as it happens, keepers will get a notification and can act on that information before the damage becomes irreversible. We’ve already had success promoting bee recovery through these smart hives. Now we’re looking to take the next step." - Makaruk

Here's a quick intro to the BuzzBox audio analysis:

To fund the public launch of the BuzzBox and engage more citizen scientist beekeepers, OSBH has turned to Kickstarter, where backers at the $255 level will be among the first to deploy the monitoring system on their hives. A pledge of $50 will get backers access to the open source files for the circuit board, sensor cases, and beehives, which will allow them to build or customize their own devices.

BuzzBox sensor system listens to honey bees & alerts beekeeper of colony issues
Beekeepers will soon be able to track the health of their colonies right from their smartphone.

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