By integrating sensors and a hi-def video camera into a 3D-printed beehive, this project aims to help beekeepers monitor their colonies in a non-invasive way.
Unless you've been living under a rock the last few years, you're probably well aware of the troubling state of honeybee health, due to the mysterious and fatal colony collapse disorder (CCD) as well as a host of other ailments that have been taking a toll on these important pollinators.
Fortunately, we're also seeing a resurgence of interest in beekeeping, along with a variety of innovations that aspiring apiarists can put to work in the service of the sweet science of 'honey farming,' such as the Flow Hive, open source beehive and sensor kits, hive monitoring systems, and more. And while none of these are a one-size-fits-all solution for healthier honeybee populations, this trend of adapting and integrating high-tech manufacturing and monitoring systems into the ancient art of beekeeping could offer additional insights into the lives and health of our amazing little winged friends.
One more ambitious project will soon enter the honeybee fray, and by combining what the team calls a 3D-printed wooden beehive and a sensor array with an app that allows beekeepers to monitor the health of their hives remotely, the BuzzCloud project aims to "take the sting out of beekeeping." Although the full details of the project have yet to be released, the word is that the team will turn to crowdfunding to launch the product once the prices and specs have been nailed down.
In the meanwhile, this video offers a glimpse at what BuzzCloud hopes to do with its iBuzzHive hardware and the accompanying HappyHiveApp:
"The iBuzzHive™ is a part of the Internet of Things (IoT), providing an effortless level of monitoring and control. Bee friendly sensors have been built into the iBuzzHive™. All of the IoT electronics have been designed by ourselves and include a bee counter on the entrance to the hive and the ability to measure the weight of honey stored in the supers attached to the hive. There is a low power heating element in the hive, controlled by a thermostat, which can gently warm the hive in cold weather. Also built into the hive are small fans to suck cooler air through the hive on very hot days to assist the bees with their temperature regulation of the hive.
Included in the hive are accelerometers serving the dual purpose of warning you if the hive is moved and also allowing you to hear the noise within the hive, potentially alerting you to the hatching of a new brood. A full HD 1080P colour camera is included which allows you to view the activity inside your hive, with sound, on any mobile device or even on a large flatscreen."
I commend the efforts of the team working on this project, as anything that can further inform beekeepers and the general public alike on the details of the pressures that honeybees and bee colonies face could have a positive impact on these incredibly important pollinators.
However, there is one aspect of the project that seems a bit overstated, similar to the way that the Flow Hive seemed to capture people's attention and make it seem as if keeping bees was a simple and easy task, and that is these two lines on the BuzzCloud website:
"Perhaps the best thing about this new approach to beekeeping is that you don't have to be a beekeeper! Its no longer necessary to get suited up in a clumsy beekeeping suit & gloves just to monitor your beehive - we make it possible to do almost all the monitoring needed using your mobile phone or tablet."
Perhaps there is some truthiness to this statement, in that the ability to monitor the hive without opening it could be useful, but I don't think you'd have to ask too many beekeepers about hive health to learn that inspecting the hives manually is an important piece of the apiary puzzle. I'm always a little concerned about projects that promise to allow someone to master a skill such as beekeeping without putting in the necessary time and effort. That said, I'd be happy to be proven wrong on this aspect of the project.
Find out more about this project at BuzzCloud.