For many years now, I have been creating experimental set-ups using sustainable beehives that have been augmented with camera’s, microphones, sensors and sensory processing algorithms to analyse the state of the colony, the quality of pollen and the behavior of the bees. These “Intelligent Beehives” are progressively linked in a European- wide network and the data is being made available online. Continue reading
We have been developing a monitoring device that is based upon the continuous monitoring of the colony’s buzz: a non-intrusive scanning device for controlling the colony’s health & development. We also have been adding video monitoring (outside and inside), which gives us a full spectrum of possibilities for colony monitoring and environmental surveillance.
As bio indicators, honeybees provide us with a constant stream of information on the environment (urban, countryside) on which they forage (activity, pollen, nectar). Diseases like colony collapse disorder and environmental problems like the use of pesticides could be analysed in a different way by monitoring and analysing the daily activity (audio, video) of several bee colonies over multiple years.
In our test station in Brussels city center, we have 2 beehives equipped with off the shelf-technology for monitoring bee activity at the landing platform (2 x video, outside and inside) and for monitoring the health and development of the colony by sound recordings of its activity (8 x audio, inside). The test station also hosts 4 non tech. equipped beehives which are usefull to make observations at the flighthole/landing platform and to compare these findings with the results of the digitally monitored hives.
Vincent was preparing the audio for the sound beehive: 4 electrets microphones and 4 piezo microphones with preamps mounted in the rooftop of the Warré beehive. We’ve put the charger for the preamps a couple of meters away from the hive, to avoid all EMF and to be as less intrusive as possible.
Our initial intention is to install the Asus computer (with debian) and a Mackie mixing panel. Later we decide to swap that setup for a more performative one: an 8 channel Prosonus soundcard, the Asus with Debian for recording and sending the files over the network to a NAS (network attached storage) hard disk.
We will record 4 times 3 minutes an hour, every :00, :15, :30 and :45. The 8-channel files will be archived via the computer & network on the NAS, the computer then compiles the .wav files into a stero mp3 and a selection of the most recent files will be streamed to the OKNO server for broadcast.
Vincent is installing the Prosunus soundcard and the Asus/Linus computer. He wrote a script to record every 15 minutes 3 minutes of sound on 8 channels. This makes 12 minutes on 8 channels per hour. The recorded files are send to the NAS (storage HD) in my studio. The last 8 files are compiled into a stereo mp3 and uploaded on the Okno server as a playlist. We are now testing the system during a few days, before the bees arrive.
The bash script makes it possible to manage the recordings from a distance, online. Which canals, how many times, etc… everything is modular. But the goal is to automate the system once we are sure about the perfect setup.
The bash scrip at server-side controls the recordings on regular intervals, the bash-script on client side synchronises the playlist of the last 30 minutes of recordings. There is also an online archive that can be consulted.
The computer needs to be powerful enough to record 8 channels simultenuously, and as well compile into mp3 format and stream the playlist.
Cables, connectors, piezo’s and electrets: all the connectors to the preamps are located in the roof, above the upper box. Thje multicable (8 microphones!) is 10 meters long and comes out of the opening at the side of the rooftop. The length of the cable is of no importance thanks to the preamps in the rooftop. Everything is water resistant.
All technology in the hive is on DC, so there is no EMF danger for the bees.
The electrets microphones are also located in the rooftop, as such the bees won’t cover them with propolis. The cinch connectors are located on the topbars of the highest box (no other possibility) – hopefully the bees will not damage them with propolis.
I decide to do another bee-sound-experiment. The fist one I did was in 2012 with the Transparent Beehive. Then, the focus was on exhibiting in realtime the sound of the colony. During talks and presentations I was making observations and linking them to the amplified sounds made by the bees.
This time I want to do it differently. I will record at regular intervals the hum of the colony and analyse it thoroughly afterwards. I also want to link the sounds with the environmental sensor data (temp, humidity, solar radiation) in the surroundings of the apiary, with the sensor data inside the beehive (temperature, humidity and vibration of the comb) as well with video images in- and outside the beehive.
For this setup, I will collaborate with Vincent Malstaf (sound engineer), Balthazar de Tonnac (computer scientist), Bob Motté (electronica engineer) and Bart de Boer (computer scientist Artificial Intelligence, complex systems, bio-acoustics).
The Raspberry technology offers us a not too expensive solution to build out a suitable lab-setup for this research. The data will be available on the opensensordata website. Continue reading
Ethology is the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour, and is a sub-topic of zoology. The focus of ethology is on animal behaviour under natural conditions, as opposed to behaviourism, which focuses on behavioural response studies in a laboratory setting.
Many naturalists have studied aspects of animal behaviour throughout history. The modern discipline of ethology is generally considered to have begun during the 1930s with the work of Dutch biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen and by Austrian biologists Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch, joint winners of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Ethology is a combination of laboratory and field science, with a strong relation to some other disciplines such as neuroanatomy, ecology, and evolution.
With the Sound Beehive experiment, we have been building a laboratory to study the development of the colony through its own sounds. The buzz of a colony and its behaviour and conditions are quite related. It is possible to know if a hive is queenless or if an important amount of nectar has been collected simply by listening to it.
For this experiment we follow a systemic approach to raise understanding of the characteristics of the colony through relationships with its environment, through patterns discovered in the collected audio, video and sensor data, and through contextual observations. We study the bees as a re-generating network of actors (autopoiesis), all of them contributing to the organisation and well functioning of the colony, the super organism.
Specific hardware and software is developed in order to continually monitor the sounds on different spots in the beehive.
We upload our annotated video and audio data for public viewing in our opensource videodatabase pandora. All corresponding sensor data are publicly available on opensensordata.net. The information archive grows as more audiovisual observations and more sensordata are added over time.
Growing intelligent beehives is a long term project, from mycelium and recycled waste straight into the final guerilla beehive shape. The purpose is to populate Brussels city with a network of intelligent guerilla beehives. These are beehives that offer shelter to a bee colony ‘in the wild’ – bee populations that are not domesticated but that are monitored from a distance in a non-intrusive way while they are collecting information about the urban environment.
The system is set up as a fully organic, cradle to cradle, circle. If the bees decide to leave the hive in search for another home, the hive (with integrated electronics) will bio-degrade and compost completely. Continue reading
The last weeks I colletected yet on several days pollen at the entrance of the beehives. I also have a pollen collected from spring this year.
On 21/22/23-8 I can work at the Chemical Engineering Lab of the VUB on the SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope). The SEM offers the possibility to make perfect 3D images at +20.000 enlargment scale. Ideal for photographing pollen and bee-parts as proboscis, receptors, e.g.
The lab is specialized in surface metals research. I work with Gizem Süngü, a future PhD student. Continue reading
Palynology is the “study of dust” . A classic palynologist analyses particulate samples collected from the air, water, or from deposits including sediments of any age. The condition and identification of those particles, organic and inorganic, give the palynologist clues to the life, the environment, and energetic conditions that produced them. wikipedia.
At Sony CSL in Tokyo I meet Masatoshi Funabashi. Masa is an expert in complex systems relations in ecologies. We talk about flowers and insects, and we decide to work with honeybees (among other insects) to collect usefull information on the ecosystem. The bees will work as interface/sensor for gathering environmental information via the pollen they collect. In my wiki, I start with a pollen database.
June 2013 Masa and me decided to work on a joined research project that investigates the link between insects, pollen and ecosystems. We will set up a database and compare pollen -straight from the plant- with pollen brought back by honeybees to the hive. With pattern recognition software we hope to collect information about the ecosystems foraged by the honeybees.
We will work with the software ELFE to discover emergent patterns in a multitude of pollen pictures.
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems.
I am completely fascinated by the aesthetical forms of the pollen grains. The more I research, the more I want to work with sophisticated machines to study the material. With the help of Professor Luc Steels I can work at the VUB in the chemical engineering Lab, where they have several SEM – scanning electron microscopes. Working on these machines a complete new world is opening up.
Masatoshi sends me an USB microscope to start developing our pollen database. I will photograph pollen brought back by the honeybees, and also pollen found in the garden.
Masa will do the same, and over a while we hope to establish a body of materials, starting to do some machine learning and later do pattern recognition. Another possibility is to compare the microscope pictures with existing pollen databases. Continue reading
During the second workshop week we installed 2 temperature sensors and a humidity sensor in the middle topbars of the brood chamber. There is also a combined temperature/humidity sensor hanging at the backside of the hive. The design of the bee monitoring system is able to log temperature and humidity inside the hive brood nest and measure temperature and humidity in the rooftop garden outside the hive.
All the sensors are connected to an arduino board, which is connected to the internet.
With this set up I can follow at any time the warming up and cooling down in the hive. Temperature and humidity inside and outside the hive are important indicators of hive health.
Some worker bees have a role as ‘heater bees’. They can dislocate their wings from their flight muscles and shiver with those large flight muscles to generate heat. These heater bees are easily identified in images taken by heat sensitive cameras because the temperature of their thorax can reach over 42°C degrees, contrasting with the normal temperature of the brood nest of 35 degrees Celsius. Even when the temperature outside is below freezing, the center of the hive can be 33 degrees.
If the outside temperature falls below 12°C, bees cannot fly and they will be confined to the hive. If the bees either run out of honey or it is so cold that they cannot crawl from the edge of their warm cluster to the honey (below 10 degrees C, they cannot move), they will starve or freeze.
This happened with our first beehive in 2009: a colony of native black bees (with pedigree) did not survive the harsh winter because their food sources were too far away from the bee nucleus. Too far was only 3 frames – but in a very cold winter every centimeter counts.
bees ‘fanning’ at the entrance of the hive, to cool down the temperature
Cooling in the hot summer is just as important. Wax softens if the hive temperature exceeds 35°C. Besides structural problems, this negatively impacts vibration-based communication between bees inside the dark hive. To cool down the hive the water-bees collect water and spread it over the comb. Bees also evaporate heat by mechanically creating air currents inside the hive to cool it down. Fanning bees at the entrance of the hive are performing this task.
Research suggests that temperature of the hive increases immediately before a swarm occurs and drops below ambient temperature at the time of the swarm itself. [paper …]
Humidity inside and outside the hive can influence how quickly the water in nectar is evaporated and transformed into honey. The bees try to maintain an average humidity value of 60% inside. The degree of humidity may also indicate environments that favor fungal growths that can devastate hives. This happens mostly in humid winters – (see chalkbrood).
Graph representing the humidity values in the green monitored beehive over the season 2011-2012.
In the beginning of the graph there is some noise, but from october 2011 we see clearly that the bees maintian a rather constant value of humidity around 55%, there where the outside values are [onderhevig aan] much bigger changes.
Graph representing the temperature values in the green monitored beehive over the season 2011-2012.
There are 2 temperature sensors installed left and right in the same topbar. The highest sensor values are closest to the honeycomb building and to the bee nucleus in winter.