The Center for Honeybee Research is an IRS Recognized 501-C (3) charitable educational organization. Contributions are tax deductible. No one at the Center or Hivetool is paid, and both promote a non-proprietary and open-source philosophy in the advancement of knowledge.





International Online Monitoring of Honeybee Colonies








Raspberry Pi computer with Hivetool Interface Board and Sensors attached. 



In this day of Siri and Alexa is it any surprize technology is being directed to the investigation of Honey Bees? What could be more important when industrialized and pollinator dependent nations are experiencing colony mortality in excess of any in written history? Today's technologies enable the detection and analysis of phenomenon previously hidden from beekeepers. Given the rate of development, use of these new tools is limited only by our dedication and imagination!


To view Hives from around the world visit Hivetool.net


What's being monitored now and what will be possible in the near future? How will this priceless information to be collected and analyzed? What questions will arise from answers we find?  Below are what the Center and Hivetool.org make available in a "Hive Monitoring Kit" and what we envision for the near future:


Weight   Digitally measured colony weights to tenths of a pound, delivered online every 5 minutes! Displayed graphically in real time, it becomes a visual map of colony change.  Beekeepers will recognize weight drop each morning as foragers leave and the afternoon orientaton flights. A steady loss of weight throughout the night is evidence of  evaporation while bees fan and dry fresh nectar. Comparison over time identifies the net gain or loss in the colony's cycle. Flows and Dearths are easily pin-pointed. A sudden drop of 3-8 lbs likely indicates a daytime swarming Event! Year to year comparisons of nectar flows among many hives provide indirect information on bloom times - and in fact these have been used by NASA in the examination of climate change. The scale remains under the hive year round and requires no onsite manipulation.


Temperature and Humidity. Beekeepers know honey bees keep their brood at 92 - 95 deg. F., and the interior cluster never drops below 82 degrees - even in a broodless cycle. In Winter, a sensor can indicate the day a queen resumes egg-laying! Humidity varies greatly depending on barometric conditions, but bees like 45-55% within the brood nest. Both humidity and temperature show abrupt short-term changes during a swarm - and together with abrupt weight changes, the graphical representation of these inter-active measurements produces a "signature" which is unmistakeable!




Left: (4) 50Kg load cells mount to a frame and plug into the Hivetool Interface Board to provide digital weight up to 440 lbs with .1 lb resolution. Right: DHT22 sensors on 6 ft. cables provide temperature AND humidity in the broodnest and outside the hive bodies.



 Lumens.  With a light sensor the relative intensity of daylight can be seen. Viewers easily know when Dawn begins and Dusk gives way to darkness. One knows whether the day is bright or cloudy, and how the length of day shortens or grows longer with the seasons.




 TSL2591 Lux Sensor measures daylight and sends a graphic representation to Hivetool.net


  Rain Gauge.  Every piece of ground is unique, and the distance between micro-climates is small. A sudden shower in summer may not be evident as little as a quarter mile distant. What caused this sudden 1 lb. gain in the middle of the day? "Oh, I see... it got cloudy, the temperature outside went down, and it rained very heavily. That's  a pound of water pooling temporarily on the top of the hive!"





 This is a colony named "Radiance" in May of 2017. Take a look at all the information presented in one place! No rain fell during this 5 day period, or it would have appeared as white spikes, higher with intensity. Compare the temperature outside to the steady 95 deg.F in the broodnest. Notice the red line? That's the weight. See the steady increase with the Spring Flow?It increased from approx. 146 to 180 lbs. in five days. That's a 34 lb. gain, or  nearly 7 lbs. per day!  Look at the slight loss of weight at night as moisture is evaporated from fresh nectar. If this were a solar powered hive the battery voltage could be checked online: see the right hand column of the table at bottom. Conditions at a nearby Weather Underground station are included for comparative data.




Here's another hive in California. It doesn't have a Lux sensor so it's not as easy to see when it's daylight. Dates are beneath vertical lines that designate midnight, or 12:00 AM. The dark BLUE line is the broodnest temperature while the light GREEN shows the temperature outside. Take a look at the weight, or RED about 10:00 AM on 4/07/2014. (The vertical line without a date is NOON) The sudden daytime loss of just over 3 lbs. indicates the sudden departure of approximately 10,000 bees! Notice that the temperature spikes shortly after the departure. We've found this to be a "signature" event on the graphs. There is a toggle to switch the display between temperature and humidity, which also spikes during a swarming event. Imagine an entrance camera keyed to record whenever these conditions are met!


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Video Camera. Streaming video to a desktop or phone gives a visual confirmation of conditions whether by day or night. Yes, infra-red cameras can be set up to monitor night-time activity. Did you know there IS some nighttime flight, especially on warm moonlit nights? Cameras can be set up to monitor the yard, the outside of an individual colony or even within.




There are various solutions to the use of these current monitoring tools - but what else is on the immediate horizon?



Bee-Counter. There are various "vector tracking" programs which can be adapted to track bees as they enter and leave colonies. A restricted access can be made such that all bees must pass under a glass plate. Bees walking are slow enough to be tracked at 30 frames per second and if the plate height limits passage to a single layer it is possible to count the total number of bees and establish a net gain or loss within any selected period of time. With refinement the program should be able to distinguish between worker and drone. We have seen a Queen leave a colony. Visual 'keys' could be embedded to automatically begin video recording in conditions such as a swarm. Imagine having live video of a swarm with time and date stamp! Picture getting a text notification on your phone in real time!

In-Hive Microphone.  Imagine you can bring up the sound within a colony on your device, day or night. Those sounds you can barely discern out with your ear to the hivebody, which get drowned by the outside when opened, are suddenly amplified by the resonant chamber in which the bees live. In Winter the sound is a reassuring confirmation the colony survives. Aural analysis and masking techniques may reveal unimaginable truths of how honey bees communicate. Is there really a definite aural pattern prdeicting a swarm? Do certain sounds reveal important developments which would otherwise go unheard? Queen Piping is but one of the fascinating phenomennae such information will provide.

Accelerometers.  What? Here we are describing minute motion detectors. Sensors which can detect and display vibration. We know that wax comb conducts sound in the form of wave motion or frequency - but in addition there are kinetically generated communication of various bee dances. An alpha worker bee vibrates her wing muscles in addition to physical gyrations we can barely see. Imagine being able to collect data on these behaviors 24/7!


The Near Future.  As the IOT [Internet of Things] progresses we expect to move into the Age of Wireless Sensors. Low Energy Bluetooth solutions will soon revolutionize how we stream data to the Cloud. At Hivetool.net we are already customizing our next generation software to run a revolutionary integration board capable of doing everything without the necessity for a companion processor such as a Raspberry Pi.


To become a Volunteer Developer and to purchase your hive sensors please visit Hivetool.Org


We encourage you join us in this pioneering effort. We welcome ANY contribution or skill you may offer. It is our hope to develop a dynamic searchable database open to the general public. In fact, it is our lack of expertise in this area which explains why our data isn't more available now.


We have a nascent Data Center at  CenterforHoneybeeResearch.org 


 To Contribute to the Effort


 honeybeeresearch@gmail.com    or    Paul@Hivetool.org     



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