In the three years since I’ve started keeping bees I’ve been asked, “So what’s up with the bees and colony collapse disorder?” I’ve been giving people the best answer I can: “The truth is we just don’t know right now.” Based on everything I know about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is not the result of any one thing, it’s the result of many occurrences. I suspect that these include herbicides like Roundup and other chemicals, along with climate change, loss of habitat and other unknown factors.
Currently, data about bee decline is very localized. In order to collect more meaningful data about CCD, we need to research the health of hives on a national and even a global basis through small scale beekeeping. I am endeavoring to do this with internet enabled beehives equipped with internal sensors.
After researching existing “smart” beehives, and winning the SLA capstone mini-grant, I was able to enlist the expertise of Maximillian Lawrence, who is the artist in residence at The Hacktory, which is part of the Department of Making and Doing located at the University City Science Center. Max is a graduate of both RISD and Cornell, and is both a painter and electrical engineer. Max has been lending his considerable skills to build a sensor kit that will give us accurate data on honeybee colony health.
On Tuesday, May 19th, I installed the first half of the sensor kit inside the very first “Smart Hive” prototype, consisting of a tiny wireless camera and an infrared light enclosed in a custom fabricated case that will stream live high quality video of the honeybees inside the hive. On Thursday May 21st, Max joined me to install the first set of sensors, allowing us to track temperature, humidity, noise level and barometric pressure. I am very excited to begin the iterative process of monitoring conditions inside the hive and collecting data that will help us understand more about what is happening to honeybee colonies everywhere.