Bees are dying at an alarming rate and the current methods used to monitor their health can be disruptive and destructive.
Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative is rallying Mason students and alumni to help them create “smart hives,” bee hives that have remote monitoring technologies embedded in them. The project was initiated at a Smart Hive Hackathon where students began designing prototypes for cloud-enabled sensors that could be placed in bee hives and used to monitor honey bee health to increase survival rates.
“Designing non-invasive ways to monitor honey bee health is critical to increasing bee survival rates. Since the mid-1800s, visual inspection remains the preferred way to evaluate honey bee colony health and productivity. To date, no integrated system designed to monitor these characteristics is available,” said Lisa Gring-Pemble, associate professor of business.
Current system limitations include costly sensors with limited capabilities. However, smart hives could offer multiple fine-tuned measurements in real time for bee hobbyists and large-scale commercial operators. Beekeepers could diagnose the health of their honey bee colonies continuously and remotely.
Students at the Smart Hive Hackathon represented the School of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Science, and Volgenau School of Engineering. Participants were able to use off-the-shelf hobbyist hardware to design sensors. The students will meet regularly to continue developing the smart hives.
Sue Bee Honey provided funding to Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative in support of the Smart Hive development project.
Bee keepers from the community and representatives from Bees and Schools, LLC and Sweet Virginia Foundation were also present for the event. Mason’s Honey Bee Director Germán Perilla also gave an in-depth presentation on honey bees—the world’s most important pollinator—and a tasting of honey made from Mason’s honey bees.
Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative is a partnership between the School of Business and College of Science and promotes sustainable beekeeping practices.