Inspirational ideas: Monitoring bee health through beehive sensors
To improve honey production, nomadic beekeepers move their hives according to the floral blossom. The remoteness of the apiaries can make it harder for them to keep control over the hives and to intervene on time in case of illnesses or other stressors that affect bee health. An Italian Operational Group is now installing sensors on beehives, sending data directly from the hive to a regional network of beekeepers.
Bees may be small, but they play an enormous part in supporting biodiversity and maintaining natural ecosystems. They produce honey and are essential for pollinating fruit trees and crops, contributing to crop yields. Many Italian beekeepers move their hives according to the blooming periods of flowers in the area. For them, keeping track of the remote hives can be a time-consuming and costly venture.
To help nomadic beekeepers monitor the health of their bees from a distance, Italian EIP-AGRI Operational Group ‘NOMADI-App’ is installing sensors on beehives. The sensors send collected data directly to beekeepers in the area.
“There are many problems that beekeepers have to deal with”, says beekeeper Michele Valleri, who is working with the Operational Group to test the sensors. “Aside from diseases, parasites, pesticides and other stressors that affect bee health, we also increasingly have to face the effects of climate change. It is not easy to keep bees in good health. Every technology that can help us can be really helpful.”
Michele explains: “A weight sensor tells us when the bees collect nectar and when they stop doing so. Temperature and humidity data give information for a good brood development. And a sensor that tracks weather conditions can signal when high or low temperatures or rain may hinder the bees in their work.”
The sensor data are completed with information from meteorological forecasts and info on flowering times and on pesticides that may be used in the area. All information will be fed into a digital network that regional beekeepers can consult remotely on their computers or mobile phones. “Beekeepers can use this information to choose the best areas to bring their bees”, says Michele, “with plenty of flowers and nectar but also free of stressors. They can keep their bees in good health and work in a more efficient way.”
Michele is making sure that the beekeepers, researchers and software developers involved in the project keep working together. “Beekeepers need to know about plants, animal health, changing weather conditions and many other things. Help from the research world is welcome. I think the value of this project lies in sharing information. For instance, by making the connection between the digital data from the hives and weather information, we can try to predict the development of the seasons. This can be very important for beekeepers. It is not always easy, but I think it is important for us to share knowledge with each other. Because beekeepers are like bees: if they work together, they can work better.”
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