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.


Unknown said...

Nice project for Kickstarter

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