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Bee Sensors Manage Hives And May Help With Survival Of The Species

Kylie Johnson
Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati
At Hauck Botanical Garden and the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, Kylie Johnson checks on the bees the old fashioned way: by looking in on them every so often

As experts try to get to the bottom of what's ailing bees, some beekeepers are using sensors to monitor the hives and uncover data that could help the species survive.

In 2015, beekeeper and engineer Rich Morris got tired of all of the guesswork when it came to raising bees. "It was driving me crazy, two things: One is in Wisconsin where I live, we sort of close them up in the fall and then open them in the spring and our basic strategy is hope," he says.

Morris knew something as simple as internal temperature would tell beekeepers their hives were alive. He started Broodminder, a company that sells a series of sensors which let beekeepers know the temperature and the weight of the hives. This can be important because bees maintain a high temperature when raising a brood and the hive gets heavier.

Broodminder sells its kit for $250. The sensors are also sold individually.

Morris says it's simple. "You come up with your cellphone and because it's Bluetooth it connects very easily," he says. "There are no passwords. You can harvest that data since you were there last. Then you can send it up to the cloud where it becomes part of"

It didn't take Certified Master Beekeeper Bob Kloss very long to get onboard. The New Jersey native not only likes knowing what is going on inside his 10-25 hives but he thinks the data will provide important insights.

"Bees communicate in a lot of different ways," he says. "We've all heard of the waggle dance and how they tell each other where the pollen is but we're also finding out that they communicate through vibrations on the comb."

Kloss wonders if there is an opportunity to measure things like the vibration and predict some type of behavior.

Morris is up to 125 million data points from beekeepers uploading their information to Google Cloud. "So what we're finding out is that internal temperature tells us a lot more than we had really expected, including the ability to see swarms happen. We are working on that so we have the evidence to stand behind our algorithms."

Green Learning Station Coordinator at the Civic Garden Center in Avondale Kylie Johnson still checks on bees the old fashioned way, but she was interested in learning about the technology.

This hive at Hauck Botanical Garden in Avondale is doing very well with thousands of bees.

The hive at Hauck Botanical Gardens, next to the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, is one of the strongest hives in Southwest Ohio with 50,000 bees. It's nine-feet tall and Johnson named the Queen Bee Beyonce. It's tucked away in the coroner of the Serenity Garden. If you want to learn more about bees, the Garden Center teaches beginning and intermediate classes.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.