Tag Archives: ict


name: the Bee Laboratory, project, year start: 2009, year end: ongoing, techniques: honeybee colonies, urban gardens, observation technology: sensors, contact microphones, webcams, streaming on open city network

The Bee Laboratory project monitors the behaviour of honeybees in urban surroundings.
 Beekeepers, scientists and artists examine the bee colonies in our rooftop gardens, our open air laboratories. We study the distributed intelligence of the honeybees : their behaviour, ecology and sociobiology. We monitor the bees and beehives with all kinds of eco-technology and we study the colony as a community. We research the interaction between the different colonies as well as the colonies’ behaviour and development in relation to the urban environment.

honeybee monitoring, 2009-ongoing

Working with the Transparent Beehive

The monitoring project offers the opportunity to study the bee colonies as bio-indicators. Bio-indicators reflect the health of the ecosystem, they can tell us about the cumulative effects of different pollutants. A bee population functions and evolves very much in accordance to the human activities we are developing around them: gardening and urban agriculture. The production of honey is different related to the flowers we grow, the plants we like, the garbage or pollution we produce.
In our experimental set-ups we work with different kinds of sustainable beehives, and we also build our own observation hives. These hives are augmented with sensors and sensory processing algorithms that analyse the quality of pollen and propolis as well as the behavior of the bees in order to monitor the state of the ecology in the surrounding areas. The ‘Intelligent Beehives’ are distributed in a European network and the data are available online.

Monitoring in the Open Fields (Valldaura, Barcelona)

Scanning Electron Micrograph of the tongue of a Honey Bee.

First design prototype for an Intelligent Beehive made from organic renewable materials.

The Bee Laboratory & UrbanBeeResearch should be seen as an open framework research. It is a long-term project on the edge of art, science and technology. The project is a collaboration between the artists, designers and engineers from okno.be, annemariemaes.net, the computer scientists of the VUB – artificial intelligence laboratory (Prof. Bart de Boer, Free University Brussels) and the Sony Computer Research Laboratory Paris – sustainability group (Ing.Dr. Peter Hanappe).

Observing and monitoring the activities of the hives coupled with ongoing documentation of each individual hive as well as the interaction between the different colonies is performed. This data has abundant environmental information value, but can also be used and made available in a more indirect/symbolic way, as in artworks.

Links to research, presentations and derivative artworks of the Bee Laboratory project:

Installations & presentations of the Bee Laboratory in exhibitions:
the Transparent Beehive at Time Inventors Kabinet Brussels (2012)
The Transparent Beehive at BEAF Brussels / Art&ICT (2014)
The Bee Laboratory on KunstRadio Vienna (2014)
The Bee Laboratory at Urban Beeing, školská gallery, praha (2014)
The Bee Laboratory at Poppositions Art Fair (2015)
Bee Monitoring Devices and Curious Observations at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Barcelona (2015)
The Scaffolded Beehive at Artes@IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence), Buenos Aires (2015)
The Bee Laboratory at Transformative Ecologies, Mons Cultural Capital (2015)
The Pop Up Bee Bar at BRDCST, Ancienne Belgique Brussels (2016)
The Guerrilla Beehive at Realizing Potentials, Art-based sustainability, Barcelona (2016)
The Transparent Beehive at Ecoventions, De Domeinen, Sittard (2017)
The Intelligent Guerrilla Beehive at Ars Electronica Cyberarts Exhibition – Honorary Mention Hybrid Arts (2017)
The Bee Agency / Sensorial Skin project at Resonances II, Leonardo Da Vinci Museum in Milano (2017)
The Bee Agency / Sensorial Skin at NOVAXX, St. Gery Brussels (2017)
Bee Agency / Variation Games at Beehave, Fundación Juan Miró, Barcelona (2018)
Bee Agency at Eco-Visionaries, Haus der electronischer Künste (HeK), Basel (2018)
Bee Agency at Museum for Art, Architecture & Technology (MAAT) Lisbon (2018)
Bee Agency at Pixel Festival Bergen, Norway (2018)
The Intelligent Guerrilla Beehive at Datami, Milano Design Week (2019)
Bee Agency at Mirage Festival, Lyon, France (2019)
Elbe Bees / ElbBienen at Hamburg Machine, Art in Public Space, Hamburg, Germany (2019 – ongoing)
Bee Agency, Humms & Buzzes, Ludwigshafen, Germany (2019)
Bee Agency at Eco-Visionarios, Laboral, Gijón, Spain (2019)
Bee Agency at UN/GREEN: Natural Artificial Intelligences, National Museum Riga, Latvia
Elbe Bees / ElbBienen, partII at Art in Public Space, Commission by city of Hamburg for Permanent Work (2020-ongoing)
Bee Agency at Meakusma X IKOB, Meakusma Festival with Museum of Contemporary Art Eupen, Belgium (2020)
The Scaffolded Sound Beehive at Klankenbos (Oortreders), Pelt, Belgium (2020)
Bee Agency / Variation Games at Generation Y, Artschool Manchester & online project, Manchester, UK (2021)

Books, articles and papers:
Dialectics of Nature – Leonardo Magazine, MIT Press (2020)
Sensorial Skin – STARTS Residency at the Hybrid Forms Lab, VU Amsterdam (2019-2020)
The Intelligent Guerrilla Beehive – Hiperorganicos, University of Rio de Janeiro (2018)
Alchimia Nova (publication 2016, ISBN 9789492321480)
the Sound Beehive Experiment – paper for Ignorance, Publication (2015)
the Scaffolded Sound Beehive – paper for the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI, 2015)
The Transparent Beehive (publication 2013, ISBN 9789081898515)

Research and Residencies, wiki research material:
Much more info on https://research.annemariemaes.net
the Guerrilla Beehive project page
the Guerrilla Beehive research page
the Guerrilla Beehive Design page

STREAMING SET UP [sound beehive]

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.

audio stuff2

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. 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.

bee covered with pollen

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