THP Semifinalist: Honeybee Hive Monitoring

hives[Ken] keeps his bees remotely and can’t check on them as often as he might like to. He wanted some way of knowing when they were out of space, because that slows down their nectar collection. He knew he could do this by remotely tracking the weight and internal temperature of the hives.

His first prototype revolved around a postal scale that couldn’t be turned off between readings. This meant that he needed a bigger solar panel and battery than originally intended. For about a week, the hives were sending data to Thingspeak through an Arduino Fio over XBee.

The current iteration measures the load cells with an HX711 24-bit ADC. This sends the scale data to an Apitronics Bee unit, which adds in temperature data from the hives and sends everything to an Apitronics Hive. [Ken] will also stream it to a cloud service so he can monitor them in real-time. [Ken] wants to see as much data as possible and contribute to NASA’s HoneyBeeNet program, so he has a second Bee unit set up to handle a nearby Apitronics weather station.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

Honey bee temperature logger tracks internal hive movement

Apparently bees tend to use different areas of the hive throughout the year. All we know is not to mess with them. [Max Justicz], on the other hand, does exactly that at his high school. He built a whether resistant solar powered multi-point temperature logger to do such things. The logger is designed to track heat movement within the hive throughout the year. Bees can be tracked like this because they generate a good amount of heat, some even use it to kill off predators.

Building weather resistant electronics is no picnic. You have to deal with rubber O rings, cable glands and clunky waterproof connectors. [Max] shows the whole process of mounting the various components into the enclosure. A solar panel feeds an Ardunio Mega, charging electronics, and SD card shield. With a 1GB SD card this bugger is in for a long haul. The 6600mAh battery should keep it running excessively long though. We’d cut the fat a bit though and swap out that Mega for something less power hungry, but going super low power can get a bit fancy. That mega is powerful enough to incorporate every other bee project we have here.

[Max] has yet to install the logger in his high school’s apiary but will update with logs once he can furnish them. We can’t wait to see the patina it develops over the seasons.

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.

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How to weigh a bee hive

Did you know weighing bee hives was even necessary? Of course it is. Monitoring hive weight can tell a beekeeper a lot about the size of the swarm, their harvesting habits, and the yield they are producing.

We had to cover this hack because it’s a fine piece of engineering. [Trearick] designed a bee hive scale that lifts one side of the hive to calculate weight. Using easy to find metal brackets, a hinge, a pulley, and some plywood he built a prying device. The three teeth slip in between the hive and its base and can be separated by squeezing together the plywood handles on the opposite side. This lifts one end of the hive, measuring the force needed to do so using a luggage scale. The readout should be roughly 1/2 the total hive weight. This measurement takes seconds to complete, uses a bulb level on the scale to help ensure consistency, and creates little or no disturbance to our flying friends.

It’s nice to see a Hymenoptera hack that helps in giving bees a healthy place to live, instead of killing wasps.

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