Liberty-loving humans may not like the idea of mass surveillance, but for the embattled bees, technology that monitors their numbers may help in the epic fight against colony collapse disorder. EyesOnHives is a camera and app that allows beekeepers to monitor the health of their hives by video-recording, tracking and analyzing the colony's activity patterns over time, translating it into simple, real-time visual reports that indicate whether the colony is thriving or in trouble. Beekeepers can then act ahead of time to assist their bees. See it in action:
We know that the outlook is dire for the bees, and just as dire for humans who depend on bee pollination for food crops. Last year, an estimated 42 percent of bee colonies died off. According to the developer Kelton Temby of Keltronix, an avid beekeeper who's previously engineered telemedicine robots, the idea is to use technology to keep tabs on the "heartbeat" of hives. Temby explains:
EyesOnHives leverages a pretty powerful image processing algorithm but is simple and non-invasive for the sake of the bees. When placed a few feet from a hive entrance, it tracks activity all day, every day while reporting whether the colony is healthy (or not) based on the bees’ activity.
The set-up involves a camera with an integrated computer, which is placed about two feet away from the hive entrance. Colony activity patterns are recorded in hours of video, and automatically analyzed into easy-to-understand data that beekeepers can use to better manage their hives. The system uses Wi-Fi to send alerts, trending data, and allows beekeepers to view or share the videos of their bees with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
The technology has already been field-tested for over a year with local beekeepers in Santa Barbara, California, assisting them in hive-related issues like "queen failure, ants attacks and robbing." Using the app, what the developers and beekeepers have found is that healthy hives have a spike in activity in the middle of the afternoon, when new field bees take their first "orientation" flights, while sick or threatened hives have a different activity signature all together.
EyesOnHives is currently seeking crowdfunding to send more camera units to interested beekeepers, who can add to a growing database of nearly 450,000 videos and datapoints. Pricing for one of the EyesOnHives Model B units starts at USD $300. One of the greatest advantages is that the social aspect of the platform permits beekeepers to help each other solve hive problems. As Temby explains, technology may be the edge we need in saving the bees:
We might be able to intervene in time. We’re trying to create a community of beekeepers who can monitor a metric. To really get enough data, we need other people’s help. We’re running out of time to save the bees. We’re really dependent on the bees and right now they’re depending on us.