2023 Hackaday Prize: Two Bee Or More Bee Swarm Detection

In the bustling world of bees, swarming is the ultimate game of real estate shuffle. When a hive gets too crowded or craves a change of scenery, colonies scout out swarms for a new hive. [Captain Flatus O’Flaherty] is a beekeeper trying to capture more native honey bees, and a custom LoRa-enabled capture hive helps him do that.

A catch hive, perched high and mighty, lures scouting as potential new homes. If selected, a swarm of over a thousand bees can move in, where [Flatus]’s detector comes in. Many catch hives are scattered around, and manually checking them is difficult. While the breath of one bee is hard to see, a thousand bees produce enough CO2 to be detected by a sensor. A custom PCB with a solar-powered  +30dB LoRa radio measures CO2 and reports back. The PCB contains an ESP32 D4 and a 1-watt Ebyte E22-400M30S LoRa module. If the CO2 levels are still elevated at nightfall, [Flatus] can be pretty confident a swarm has moved in.

Using the data collected, he massaged it to create a dataset suitable for training on XGBoost. With weather data and other conditions, the model tries to predict when a swarm is more or less likely to happen. Apis Mellifera (the local honeybee around [Flatus]) loves sun-kissed, warm, humid afternoons with little wind.

We’ve seen beehive monitors before and love exploring what the data could be used for—video after the break.

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Beehive In A Bottle

One of the most common types of beekeeping hive is based around the Langstroth hive, first patented in the United States in 1852. While it does have some nice features like movable frames, the march of history has progressed considerably while this core of beekeeping practices has changed very little. But that really just means that beekeeping as a hobby is rife with opportunities for innovation, and [Advoko] is pioneering his own modern style of beehive.

In nature, bees like to live inside of things like hollowed-out tree trunks, so he has modeled his hive design after that by basing it around large inverted plastic bottles. Bees can enter in the opening at the bottle and build their comb inside from the top down. The bottles can be closed and moved easily without contacting the bees, and he even creates honey supers out of smaller bottles which allows honey to be harvested without disturbing the core beehive.There are a number of strategies to improve the bees’ stay in the bottles as well, such as giving them wooden skewers in the bottle to build their comb on and closing the bottles in insulation to help the hives regulate their temperature more evenly and to keep them dark.

He hopes this idea will help inspire those with an interest in the hobby who wouldn’t otherwise have the large amount of money it takes to set up even a few Langstroth-type hives. Even if you don’t live in a part of the world where the Langstroth hive is common, this system still should be possible to get up and running with a minimum of financial investment. Once you’ve started, though, take a look at some other builds which augment the hive with some monitoring technology.

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Bee Counter Will Have You Up To Your Nectar In Hive Data

While we admit that free honey sounds pretty good, beekeeping is not some set-it-and-forget-it hobby where you can just put bees in a box and come back in a month to collect the goods. With the world’s bee population in decline, it’s more important than ever to monitor the health of hives.

One way to do that is to count the bees as they leave and reenter the hive. You can use the data to determine how many workers are working, or to compare activity between multiple hives. If you notice the bees are gone for longer and longer periods, it’s probably because their nearby nectar sources are dwindling and they have to travel farther to find flowers.

This open-source bee counter built by [hydronics2] is designed to fit the opening of a standard hive. The bees can only buzz themselves back in by flying through one of 24 little IR break-beam gates. Our favorite thing about this build is the way [hydronics2] created the individual gates by sandwiching two boards together with headers as spacers. It’s such a simple and perfect solution.

It’s also pretty cool that the board is designed to be compatible with any Feather or ItsyBitsy board, so there are a lot of options for data handling. Check out the brief demo we planted after the break, and stick around for the build video. If you’d prefer a more hands-off approach, try computer vision.

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THP Semifinalist: Honeybee Hive Monitoring

[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.