Counting bees

This is the bee counter which [Hydronics] designed. It’s made to attach to the opening for a hive, and will count the number of bees entering and exiting. We’re not experienced bee keepers ourselves (in fact we’re more of the mind of getting rid of stinging beasties) but we understand their important role in agriculture and ecosystem so we’re glad someone’s making a nice home for them.

Most of the apparatus is a circuit board lined with reflective sensors. There is a double-row of pin sockets on the top of the board which accepts the Teensy+ which monitors those sensors. The bees must pass below this PCB every time they enter or leave the hive, thereby tripping a sensor. In the video after the break [Hydronics] shows off the system with a netbook used to monitor the output. But it sounds like he has plans for an integrated display system in future versions of the bee counter.


  1. Eirinn says:

    …wont one bee be counted multiple times?

  2. Chuck says:

    We just generally count their legs & divide by six.

  3. ginsublade says:

    If he used sensors from quadrature encoders,they have 2 ir beams to break….he could tell direction. most inkjet printers have 2 encoders in them….cheap+avalable..

    • Paul says:

      If you go to the instructible page and click on step #3 (the picture of the long purple circuit board)…

      … you can see there’s 2 sensors at each opening. If you mouse-over the image, the tooltip he provided for the image says “…. two gates per inch, two sensors per gate, 22 gates, 44 sensors, ~12 inches long”.

      There’s also an Arduino sketch on that page which seems to read 4 of the sensors and increment separate “ins” or “outs” counters based detecting changes and looking at the 2 readings to infer direction of movement. There are some comments in the code which explain how it works, such as:

      if (lai != ai){ // has the status if the 1st pin changed?
      if (ai > ao) { // if yes, is the bee going in or out?
      ins++; // if its going in add one bee to ins

  4. Dax says:

    There’s just the slight problem that bees really hate electricity, because they sense the weak electrical fields coming off of the device.

    Similiar to how red ants will climb into junction boxes and traffic lights and short them out. Something in the potential field makes them flip out.

  5. Knossos says:

    Now they just need to add a pair of xbees to transmit the data wirelessly.

  6. Johnny O. Farnen says:

    Interesting solution in gathering data. Since honeybees are suffering from massive colony loss in some areas, this is yet another method to eliminate anecdotal data and log the actual downsizing of the colony in real time. Fun stuff.

  7. steve says:

    I thought most insects hate UV light and infrared. I may be totally wrong on this one but wouldn’t it cause a disruption? maybe you can paint numbers on all of them instead

  8. Vonskippy says:

    Aw, I was hoping for a little tiny time clock with little tiny punch cards and trained bees that use them.

  9. ocjm says:

    Currenly in the netherlands another bee project project is going on: Bee Tracking System – Live data from Floriade Bee hive. Tracking system with rfid chipped bees to investigate causes of massive bee collapse disorder.

  10. echodelta says:

    Great jokes! But seriously could a bee turnstile function in a gate-channel. The offending Ir would be inside the housing. It would eliminate stinger-gating bees from not tallying. They are busy and in a hurry just like subway riders.

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