BETTER-B uses automatic hive monitoring

Automatic hive monitoring is a key element in the honeybee research of BETTER-B. Sensors are used to measure quantitative data on activities of the colonies. Wireless protocols are used to collect the information and trigger alarms if anything is wrong.

The BETTER-B partners use the BEEP research platform for hive monitoring, data management as well as for digital inspections. This allows registration of actions and observations in a structured and standardised way. These inspection are key to allow interpretation of the automatically acquired hive and weather data.

Here below we show and describe how the systems work.

The BEEP base with the wooden bottom board and microphone holder. The yellow centerpiece contains the weight sensor (loadcell) which measures the full weight of the hive. The external battery back attached to the BEEP base computer is also visible. A black button is used to turn the system on and off and to establish a bluetooth connection with the app. The data storage (‘real-time’) clock is not visible: it is fitted in the computer box.

Custom hive monitoring

Eight research partners manage apiaries in which in total 156 BEEP bases have been installed. The systems are customised to the specific research needs.

By default three types of variables are measured: weight, in-hive temperature and sound. On request, BEEP designed and produced a 3D printed holder for the microphone. It is placed below the hive and attached to the BEEP base. It has a shield to protect it from debris falling down and its shape channels the sound from inside the hive to the microphone.

The aim of the temperature sensor is to measure in the middle of the top brood box to monitor the brood status automatically. BEEP added a cable holder to allow for easy installation and operation when doing inspections. With the holder the sensor is placed at a pre-set height.

A wooden bottom board was designed to provide additional support and a sturdy foundation for beehive monitoring. It is equipped with notches on all sides to easily strap the hive too in case of extreme weather.

LEFT: The BEEP base installed and strapped to the wooden bottom board. Metal clamps enable to secure the system to the wooden stand in the apiary. 
RIGHT: The temperature sensor is placed in the (top) brood box. With the wooden holder attached to the wire of the temperature sensor, it can be placed precisely in the brood box.

Battery life and alerts

The regular BEEP base uses two AAA batteries, on which enable the system to operate at least 12 months and measure and wirelessly transmit (via LoRaWAN) the data four time per hour. For BETTER-B this was upgraded with an external battery pack with two AA batteries. This elongates the durability and it eases the replacement of batteries as this pack can be detached from the BEEP base.

An alert notification can be set for all variables being measured. Specifically for batteries this can inform the user that they need replacement. Other examples of using alerts include food availability, swarming and theft.

Safe data storage

An upgrade was made for the local data storage. A clock has been added with its own long-lasting battery which ensures that data stored on the BEEP base can be used to fill any gaps in the automatically transmitted data.

Last but not least, BEEP will equip the BETTER-B partners with a data sharing portal. Data generated during the research project can be stored centrally and shared with all or with specific research collaborators depending on the needs. Open, public sharing of the datasets is also supported by this portal.

See this poster for a full overview of the BEEP platform.

Measurement data visible in the BEEP app, coming from the BEEP base in combination with weather data at the location of the apiary. The vertical dotted line in the graphs are inspections.

Better-B has received funding from the European Union, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government's Horizon Europe funding guarantee (grant number 10068544).

Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union, European Research Executive Agency (REA), SERI or UKRI. Neither the European Union nor the granting authorities can be held responsible for them.

© 2023 Better-B Project
Created by SCIPROM