One of the buzzword/acryonyms you may have recently heard is “IOT” which stand for the “internet-of-things”. In simple terms, this refers to all of the sensors out there that transmit their data (wirelessly or wired) so that a computer program can analyze the sensor reading. These days sensors include microphones, water flow meters in pipes, thermostats, scales, fit bits.. you name it.. including “IOT for bees”.
There are many small companies and university research projects trying to utilize sensors to help us know what is going on in a hive. Some of the most common “hive IOT devices” include hive scales along with humidity and temperature sensors. In April, I installed a hive scale & temp/humidity sensors from the company Broodminder on the two hives that I started new last year.
The sensors take one reading every hour. Every few days I take my cellphone to the apiary, start the Broodminder App which reads the new data that has been collected since I was last there. The app then uploads the new readings to the Broodminder site on the internet. This site provides some nice graphs of the data as well as the ability to download all of it in .csv format.
You are probably asking – why in heck would you want scales or temp/humidity readings from the hives,? Well, the reason is it can give me insight as to what is going in the hive so that I don’t have to disturb the bees. For example, to develop properly, bee larva/brood needs to be kept at ~95F. If it gets much colder, they get chilled and die… So having a temp sensor in the brood chamber can tell me if 1) There is brood being raised (if is is < 95 there is no brood) 2) if the bees are regulating the temperature properly. Similarly, brood needs to be raised in a 50-70% humidity environment.
Below is a snapshot of the temperature readings for 10 days in May. The blue line is the temperature at the brood next (~95F). The pink is the outside air temp. Notice that even when the outside temp is in the 40s, how steady the bees are keeping the brood nest. This is a sign that the bees are doing a good job raising brood.
The scales on the hive give beekeepers lots of information including when there is a nectar flow on, if the bees are actively foraging for food and if the hive swarms.
The graph below is a little hard to read the details, but it shows the weight changes in the hive since May 14.. Notice how starting at the beginning of June the weight is going up? This means there is a nectar flow on so the bees are bringing in lots of nectar.
Here’s a zoomed in view of the last couple weeks. The hive has gained ~30lbs since May31; and 10lbs between Jun9-Jun11. When I see this, I need to make sure that the bees have plenty of room in their hive to store all of this nectar which usually means adding boxes to the hive
Any guesses as to why we see the sine wave shape to this weight curve?? Believe it or not, this due to the bees leaving the hive to start foraging early in the morning and coming back into the hive at night. From the zoomed in shot below.. You can see on June 10 about 6am, the bees started leaving the hive. By noon the hive had lost 5 lbs.. this means close to 20K bees had left the hive (10K bees is ~3lbs).. then as the afternoon went on, the bees were back in the hive and by 8pm the weight stabilized for the night.. until 6am the next morning when they started to forage again!
I’ve added a page to the website where you can view the live hive “IOT” data from the last 7 days: Hive Scale Data. It will be updated each time I take a new reading from the sensors