Bee Smarter About Beekeeping With Smart Devices

Beekeepers are turning to smart devices and sensors to monitor their bees health, location and other elements of their beekeeping operations.

by Shelly Wutke
PHOTO: images by Shelly Wutke

People have been keeping honeybees for thousands of years, and they have used the same beekeeping techniques for almost as long. Beekeepers or apiarists will inspect the frames inside the hive, monitor the queen’s behavior, check and treat for mites, and (if they’re lucky) collect honey when there is a surplus. While these methods are effective if everything is going right, there hasn’t been much a beekeeper can control when everything goes wrong.

Swarming, wasp attacks and hive theft cause farmers thousands of dollars in losses every year. Honey bees, while not yet in danger of extinction, are also suffering global losses in large part due to the use of herbicides and the constant threat of the varroa mite. These are just a few reasons why smart devices have moved into the world of beekeeping.

GPS-enabled smart devices and smart sensors will now monitor your hives without you needing to open the lid. You can use these smart devices to assess hive health, improve beekeeping productivity, and create healthier colonies.

They are also an excellent way to protect against hive theft.

How do smart monitors work for beehives?

Smart beehive monitoring uses a variety of sensors and GPS devices to track and monitor your hives. With these devices you’ll be able to keep a watchful eye over your bees from an app on your phone.

Here’s a quick look at what they can track.

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Hive location

Honeybee hive theft is rising in the United States. In many states bees are considered livestock, and the theft of a single hive can cost the farmer a minimum of $500.

With a GPS device placed in your hive, you will know your hive is always right where you left it. These devices are helpful if your property is large and you have your hives placed in different locations. If the hive is moved due to theft, you’ll be able to track it in real time and possibly reclaim it.

Hive health

Smart devices can also track the conditions inside the hive. You’ll be able to ‘see’ inside without having to open the hive up at all, and they can track temperature, humidity, weight and other environmental factors.

With a sensor in your hive, you’ll know if you’ve placed it in an optimal location or if it’s facing in a direction causes the hive too much humidity or temperature change. You’ll also know when it’s time to look inside, and that can save you from needing to open it up too often.

Smart devices can’t prevent varroa mites. But they may be able to give you an indication of infestation by monitoring your hive population or tracking to see if there is a sudden drop in hive health due to illness or attacks.

smart beekeeping devices

Prevent bee swarming

There’s nothing like heading out to what was a busy beehive and seeing it empty. In the past a farmer had to make an educated guess as to whether the colony had swarmed. Today, smart devices can alert you to swarm behavior before it happens.

If you’re monitoring your hive on a day-to-day basis and you note potential swarming behaviors, you may be able to prevent it by splitting it or adding frames or hive boxes immediately.

What smart devices are available for beekeeping right now?

There are several smart devices designed to keep a watchful eye over your hives, but not all are available at the retail level or in the U.S.

Gobuzzr is a beehive monitoring system that uses sensors and an app to provide you with instant notifications about changes to the temperature, weight or humidity levels in your hive.

Beebot is another smart device that’s placed in the hive. It will track temperature, humidity and even monitor the bee’s buzzing for changes.

While these devices offer a lot of detailed information on your hives, if you’d like a quick and easy way to track the location of your bees in the event of theft, some beekeepers are using Apple Airtags. Airtags are not designed for use with livestock or pets, but if you add one to your hive, you would always know the GPS location of your bees and may even be able to track them if they are on the move.

It’s a little thing, but it could give you peace of mind knowing your bees are always where you left them.

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