A new system can keep tabs on the health and production of honeybees and wirelessly report hive conditions via text message. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: There's a new buzz in the bee world - hives are going wireless. A team of engineering students in Poland have developed a device called the "Maja". Packed with sensors, the prototype keeps constant tabs on the honey producing insects and the hive they live and work in. SOUNDBITE (Polish) STUDENT AND DESIGNER OF 'MAJA' BEE MONITORING DEVICE, WOJCIECH SOJKA, SAYING: "We study the temperature, humidity, motion, and analyze the acoustic spectrum. All these data are transmitted to an external data server, where we can analyze them and in the case of any threats they can be immediately and directly sent to the beekeeper's phone." One of the most important sensors is a scale which could alert a beekeeper if a hive suddenly loses weight due to an exodus of bees or an intruder stealing honey. Other sensors in the system give beekeepers real time data that allow them to analyze a hive's activity. SOUNDBITE (Polish) STUDENT AND DESIGNER OF 'MAJA' BEE MONITORING DEVICE, WOJCIECH SOJKA, SAYING: "The study of temperature and humidity gives us quantifiable information if bees are working properly and if their surrounding micro-climate is as good as it should be. Analysis of the acoustic spectrum allows us to hear what the queen bee is doing and whether the bees are indicating any threats". The data collected from a network of these types of sensors could potentially give researchers new insights into Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD, a syndrome where worker bees disappear from the hive, effectively killing the colony. Honeybee populations globally have dramatically dropped in recent decades due to CCD as well as increased use of pesticides and climate change factors. A recent UN study says pollinator species, including bees, are on the path towards extinction. Hopefully data garnered from these types of technologies could help take the sting out of an otherwise grim outlook.