Internet of Stings: BuzzBox makes the beehive smart
Humans are beginning to reap the luxuries of the connected smart home, so why not bees? A Kickstarter campaign from Open Source Beehives is currently stress-testing that slightly facetious question, and at the time of writing it’s up to almost 75% of its $20,000 funding target with 19 days to go.
Given that apiculture is a pursuit that’s been around for 10,000 years, you’d be forgiven for thinking that beehives don’t need electronics to function, but it does the BuzzBox a disservice to think of it as a Fitbit for bees. Yes, BuzzBox measures temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and security threats, all duly reported via a smartphone app, but its real party trick is the health monitor. Rather than a tiny insect physio, this is a microphone that records audio from the hive and claims to be able to analyse colony health from the tone of the droning.
Open Source Beehives reckons its data is able to track a number of states, instantly telling you when your colony has collapsed or if the queen is missing. And because BuzzBox offers over-the-air updates, the box will eventually be able to detect diseases and parasites such as wax moths and varroa mites. This video explains how researchers can infer hive health from audio:
As well as giving you valuable insights into your personal beehive, the project hopes to amass invaluable data for researchers investigating the alarming collapse in bee numbers around the world. “Is it possible we could generate data to prove pesticides are killing bees?” asks the promotional video, going on to suggest that the data could “prevent regional honey bee epidemics by predicting them before they happen”.
The data is collected and shared via the BuzzBox’s built-in Wi-Fi and GSM connections, but you don’t need to connect your beehive to the mains – the whole thing is solar-powered.
You can back the project now on Kickstarter, with a pledge of $255 securing a BuzzBox with an estimated delivery date of February 2018 – but if you’re not making that kind of honey money, you can get the maker pack of open-source files to make your own circuit board for $50. If you just want to support the project, a pledge of $30 will get you a pack of non-psychoactive hemp honey sticks, allowing you to “chill while contributing to our scientific research”.
Here’s your usual crowdfunding disclaimer, though: only pledge what you can afford to lose. That way you won’t be too distraught if the project fails to deliver. But hopefully it will: the plight of bees is serious business, and it would be sad if we had to switch to drone pollination.