A Portuguese start-up has developed a smart, innovative system that allows beekeepers to remotely monitor the health of their bee colonies in real time.
Honeybee numbers are in decline, with beekeepers in the US and Europe reporting losses of up to 30 percent per year. Yet determining an exact cause (or causes) has proven difficult, leading scientists to dub the mysterious death of entire bee colonies ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’, and nominate pesticides, pathogens and fungicides as well as a proliferation of disease and parasitic mites as possible causes.
Apis Technology, a start-up based in Portugal, is looking to combine beekeeping with 21st century technology to not only promote colony health but also make it easier for beekeepers to maintain a beehive. The team has built a high-tech system that allows beekeepers to assess the development of each colony; monitor honey production; check whether the queen or virgin bee is laying; view hive temperature and humidity; receive alerts when the hive is under threat (from wasps or harsh weather conditions); and more all in real time.
The system, which can be installed in new or existing hives, comprises a temperature probe, scale (to monitor bee development), bee counter (which reads bee foraging levels and helps protect against intruders) as well as two small, flat boxes – a communication module and a hive monitor. The hive monitor reads data collected by the temperature probe, scale and counter and sends this via a wireless connection to the communication module, which is WiFi capable. The information is then sent to the cloud and beekpeers can access it on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Apis Technology has also created a smart beehive that is covered in a cork coating (for durability) and features a patented insulation system to help control temperature, particularly during winter.
The entire system was designed to be as non-invasive to bees as possible. Director Miguel Bento is himself a beekeeper and has used his knowledge of beekeeping to inform and guide the development of the system.
More research needs to be conducted into Colony Collapse Disorder to find its causes and prevent bees from dying out but initiatives that help beekeepers non-intrusively monitor their apiaries around the clock might help them respond to changes and challenges in the hive ecosystem more effectively.