Aeris Blog

Three Ideas for Saving Bee Communities with IoT

January 02, 2019

The Internet of Things (IoT) is bridging the gap between technology and the natural world by providing nature-based startups with solutions to overcome some of their most prevailing environmental concerns. Take, for example, the health of bees. According to an account from the Bee Informed Partnership, beekeepers lost more than 44% of their bee colonies between 2015 and 2016 due to Colony Collapse Disorder. With 15% being the high average, this recent statistic shows an abnormally high amount in annual colony loss, indicating a serious problem with the health of the honey bees, which, in turn, affects the global food supply of all produce items that require pollination. In response to concerns over these losses, startups are using IoT to help beekeepers monitor and save their bee colonies.

Accurate, real-time data collected through IoT monitoring can help beekeepers build a more finite understanding of bee behavior within their colonies. By monitoring bee behavior patterns in real time, beekeepers immediately can identify signs of common bee health problems, like the presence of American Foulbrood bacteria and Varroa mite parasites. By identifying any hive problems before or as they unfold, beekeepers can adjust the beehive environment in a manner that is timely enough to prevent the occurrence of Colony Collapse Disorder. The following technologies illustrate three fascinating ways that beekeepers are utilizing IoT to help save the bees.

IoT Micro-Climate Control within Beehives

IoT often is used for micro-climate monitoring, where connected sensors gather data and provide insights into the climate of very specific areas. Temperature and humidity data, along with data on other climate factors, can be collected and interpreted in real time. Beekeepers are using this technology to remotely keep a finger on the pulse of their hives. Sensors placed inside the hives monitor humidity and temperature—two climate factors that can affect the health of the bees significantly. When the humidity or temperature shifts to an unfavorable state, beekeepers can receive an immediate notification and, from there, can send a remote command to make the proper climate adjustments. The ApisProject and OSBeehives are two initiatives taking advantage of IoT micro-climate monitoring to help increase the health of beehives across the globe.

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Bee Behavior Monitoring

Radio Frequency IDs (RFIDs) utilize IoT technology for tracking purposes. Each RFID device sends a network location signal with a unique ID to a central monitoring station, and this connection can be used to track things such as festival attendee wristbands, inventory items, and even honey bees. Tiny RFID chips weighing 3% or less than the bee’s weight can be attached to the bee’s body. IoT monitoring software can use the tracking data from these connected bees to reach intriguing insights about bee health and behavior, such as every pollen or nectar collecting trip a single bee makes in its lifespan. Signature behavior patterns can be learned over time so that when the bees’ behavior changes, beekeepers can be notified of a potential health concern that then can be investigated.  

Similarly, tiny microphones implanted in a beehive can collect audio data on the bees’ day-to-day behavior. The sound frequencies and vibrations that result from normal bee activity can be learned and with any change in the noises from the beehives, beekeepers quickly can take a closer look to determine if the shift in frequencies signifies turmoil among the bees.

IoT Health Care for Bees

One major concern for beekeepers is preventing Varroa destructor mites from deteriorating the quality of life for the bees within their hives. These mites have a parasitic relationship with honey bees, causing them stress and disease that can lead to Colony Collapse Disorder. Eltopia, a company that helps farmers in Washington, currently is developing a fascinating solution to prevent the growth of stress-causing Varroa destructor mites by tracking and gathering critical data on both the bees’ and the mites’ reproductive cycles in real time.

In the bees’ reproductive cycle, the queen bee lays eggs in a honeycomb cell, and once the hatchlings begin to grow into pupae, the honeycomb cells are capped by worker bees with beeswax. The capping stage in the bees’ reproduction cycle is right around the time when female Varroa destructor mites begin to lay their eggs.

IoT sensors placed in the beehive can sense the stages of the bee brood’s reproductive cycle and identify when the cells have been capped. Once the sensors identify that the cells have been capped, a signal is sent to a device that can apply heat at a specific temperature that sterilizes the mite eggs but causes no harm to the bees and their larvae. These connected sensors and heat activators can play a huge role and minimizing disease within the beehive and potentially save thousands of hives around the world.

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Aeris: Partnering with Startups That Use IoT for Good

By understanding honey bee behavior and incorporating IoT technology, beekeepers and apiology scientists are learning how to keep this essential life form from going extinct. In addition to protecting bees with IoT, other endangered wildlife, natural resources, and forest regions can be studied closely and protected.

In order to build a system of sensors that collects valuable data, a strong, secure network is required. As a network provider that can deploy both cellular and LPWA networks, Aeris is capable of working hand-in-hand with any nature-based startup company to enhance their goals of preserving or working with wildlife and natural resources in innovative, eco-friendly ways. To learn more about how to start growing your IoT for good project with Aeris, Contact Us today.