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The Future Of Britain’s High-Tech Bees

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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How Low Carbon and Plan Bee are hoping to savethe UK’s declining honeybee population with the latest in hive- monitoring technology

Honeybee populations have halved in the UK over the last two decades, according to recent research conducted by the University of Reading. Climate change, pesticides, mites and even the practice of ‘hive-rustling’ (where commercial bee hives are stolen directly from farms for money) are all contributing factors to the honeybee’s rapid decline. Since honeybees are so integral to greater biodiversity, these facts make worrying reading for anyone passionate about protecting the environment and indeed for any who want to help champion biodiversity in the ongoing fight against climate change, across the UK.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The technology industry in particular can play its part in helping to protect the UK’s bees. Many organisations, such as Plan Bee, are already working with software developers to build unique monitoring systems that can measure hive temperatures, hive humidity and hive acoustics – all integral to measure for the health and protection of the UK’s bees.

How does it work?

BEESWhilst remote hive monitoring is by no means a necessity for all beekeepers, it can be extremely beneficial to provide a clear and better understanding of hive temperatures within the nest. Monitors can provide real-time insight of when a colony might swarm and even if a ‘non-laying’ queen bee needs to be replaced. Hive monitoring can also prove essential to track down hives which are stolen- something that is becoming more commonplace as the price of honeybee colonies soar.

Monitors can allow beekeepers to compare hive homeostasis, map daily flight and fanning activity and assess the efficiency of nectar collection and processing. This is especially useful when trying to compare and analyse differences between bee colonies affected with things like pests, parasites, exposure to chemicals and bacterial infections

Studying the influence of external environment factors on colonies in different locations is something hive monitoring can also greatly assist with. The online systems can keep track of meteorological conditions at each hive site such as air temperatures and the amount of sunshine and rainfall. This is imperative for the health of any bee colony.

Finally, hive monitoring systems can help to ensure the upmost reliability and consistency.  Measurements are taken in the same way every time, minimising the risks associated with subjective interpretation of bee colony health. Furthermore, data collection is never dependent on operator availability or weather conditions. All data is time-stamped to the nearest second at the time of measurement

Housing the honeybees

Having this technology at our disposal is all very well and good, but more must be done to find a home for the honeybee population. Solar parks and other renewable energy sites can provide the perfect home for honeybee populations. Not only will this present an opportunity for strong stable returns and generate clean, renewable energy, it will also provide a protected home for local habitats and species.

The future of the UK’s honey bee population is at risk – and the renewable energy industry, landowners and beekeepers can and should look to embrace the latest in hive monitoring technology to help protect this precious species from further threats. We welcome the development of further innovative monitoring technology which can help track and safeguard bees now and for the future.

Quentin Scott is marketing director at Low Carbon, and Warren Bader is CEO of Plan Bee.

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