IoT tracks ‘bee talk’ to help improve honeybees health

IoT tracks ‘bee talk’ to help improve honeybees health

IoT tracks ‘bee talk’ to help improve honeybees health
(Photo: Simon Fraser University)

A graduate student from Simon Fraser University (SFU), Canada, is monitoring the health of 20,000 honeybees through IoT.

Oldooz Pooyanfar is a graduate student in SFU’s School of Mechatronics Systems Engineering and an employee at the Chilliwack-based Worker Bee Honey Company. She has developed an IoT-based monitoring platform in order to find out clues about the health of honeybees by tracking what the bees are “saying” to each other.

Pooyanfar says improving knowledge about honeybee activity is critical, given a 30 percent decline in the honeybee population over the past decade in North America. However, while research into the causes of what is referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder continues, the presence of fewer bees affects both crop pollination and the environment.

To find answers to this problem, Pooyanfar developed her platform during her time at university. Supposedly the monitoring platform is placed along the wall of the hives, which are located in Cloverdale Field, south of Vancouver, British Columbia. The hives are then fitted with tiny sensors containing microphones (and eventually, accelometers) that monitor sound, vibration, temperature and humidity.

Pooyanfar claims her system enables data collection on sound within the hives and also tracks any abnormalities to which beekeepers can immediately respond.

(Photo: Simon Fraser University)

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What do honeybees ‘say’ that IoT can tell us?

The system will be used to gather data over the summer, with the hope that it will reveal new information about the bee’s daily patterns and environmental conditions to improve bee colony management. If successful, the system could be preferable to current methods of monitoring, which apparently provide less detailed information and can disrupt bee activity for up to 24 hours every time the hive is opened.

“To learn about what bees are communicating, we can either look at pheromones—the chemical they produce—or sound,” says Pooyanfar, who initially received funding through the MITACS Accelerate program. The City of Surrey is providing the field space for her research.

“With this monitoring system, we are collecting data in real time on what the bees are ‘saying’ about foraging, or if they’re swarming, or if the queen bee is present – right now we are collecting as much data as possible that will pinpoint what they are actually doing.”

Pooyanfar plans to eventually manufacture a sensor package for this application to help lower the costs of monitoring and allow more beekeepers to monitor their hives in real-time. Her initial-stage research was featured at the Greater Vancouver Clean Technology Expo last fall.

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