29 Dec 2017

In this slidedeck I share the key elements of planning, seeding and maintaining a 'floral ribbon' (bloemenlint or bijenlint) to help strengthen the local biodiversity and ecology in an urban environment. It is based on my experience in my home town in 2017. See here an article and map of the floral ribbon.

9 Mar 2016

Digital beehive monitoring

Bee hives are like factories with production lines, good manufacturing procedures and monitoring and response mechanisms. When all goes according to plan, outputs are as expected. Baby bees are born, the nectar flow is turned into honey and the place is kept clean and tidy, all by the bees. However, when things turn sour like unfavorite weather patterns, invasions or diseases, a colony may succumb very quickly. Digital beehive monitoring using remote sensors allows for distant, paperless verification and early warning notification.

Here below an overview of digital beehive monitoring parameters.


The total weight is the hive (constant unless the beekeeper changes anything) plus frames with beewax, nectar, pollen, brood and honey and the bees itself. Weight drastically increased with full on honey production. Weight will decrease slightly at night when all bees are in, eating some and evaporating water from nectar to produce honey. Monitoring weight can help determine if there is enough space left. If not, the bees may swarm or leave the hive. During winter, the it helps to determine if there is enough food stock left to start up expansion of the colony early in the year. If the weight suddenly drops several kilograms, a nearby colony may be stealing nectar or honey stock or wax moths or mice may be eating their way through the hive. When multiple hives in the same location are being monitored, the pattern comparison can highlight anomalies.


Both outside and brood temperature are important. Outside temperature indicates if the bees can fly. In combination with flight activity monitoring, one can check if behaviour is normal. Temperature measurement in the brood indicates bee health; keeping a steady temperature of 34 degrees by heating it up in winter and cooling it down in summer.


The first check a beekeeper on a typical inspection, is visually check the flight deck; the arrival and departure strip for the bees. Are they flying for their foraging trips, is pollen coming in (nectar is harder to see), any abnormal behaviour or signs? A webcam can help to check the flight deck, but it will not interpret for you what it’s seeing (not yet that is). Measuring motion activity at the entrance in combination with other factors (rain, wind, light) is an indication of the health of the colony.


The frequency at which bees flap their wings determines the sound frequency in the hive. For example when you expect they are fanning too cool the hive. When a bee colony is getting ready to swarm there will be a number of bees ‘starting up’ the rest of the the colony. Their sound pattern can be compared with a F1 wagon warming up. When this sound pattern is detected the beekeeper will want to take action soon to keep them in hive. Other uses of sound are to detect if the colony is without a queen; they sound ‘low’. Furthermore, queen bees which are about the hatch ‘toot’ and ‘quack’ to each other. A sound sample here. Note; bees can't hear sounds, but can feel vibrations.

Wind, rain, light

With strong winds or with rain, bees won’t likely fly out. So in combination with flight activity one can check normal behaviour.

Update 7 March 2018: Based on this blog an initiative started called Beep, bee app. See: beep.nl.

The bees and its keepers' duties

Beekeeping is a great hobby I think. It is pretty intense requiring monitoring and actions throughout the year. Here a 'bee calendar' showing the hype in the hive and the role of the beekeeper when keeping bees in a country like The Netherlands:

19 Apr 2015

Beehives, honey and mapping

Hereby a go at a map visualisation of beehives in Breukelen and surrounding, basically North-West of Utrecht. Larger points indicate the number of hives and the circles indicate the approximate radius (1 km) where the bees fly out to collect nectar and pollen. The information is in Dutch. Click here to acces the map full-page. There's a form you can use to share another location in the Breukelen, Loenen, Utrecht area. A large map of beehives and beekeepers is http://apiarymap.com/.

6 Feb 2015

Akvo timeline visualizations

On January 20th 2015, my colleague Alvaro de Salvo shared the raw data file of the timeline of Akvo 2006-2014 in a blog post. Here my go at using the data for some visualizations for which I used 'RAW'. Click the image to enlarge. 

Bump Chart on the count on news categories, per year.

Circular dendrogram of news items except funding per category per year.

Treemap of the income per year. The subdivision per year indicate the size of various income sources.

16 Jul 2014

Exploring the surroundings of Breukelen

I live in Breukelen since summer 2013. As part of discovering the surrounding of the town, I've created this map [full view here]. Data sits in a Google Fusion table. Green icons represent a mark of 8 or higher. Red circles indicate places on my wishlist to visit. For details, click on the icon. And... this experiment is still on-going ;-)