Honey bees are vital to our ecosystem, pollinating more than 70% of fruit and vegetable crops types which contribute more than $15 billion annually to the economy in the United States alone, and that number soars past $100 billion globally. However, over the past few decades, they are dying at an alarming rate, posing a serious problem and challenge of ensuring the sustainability of our food production systems, avoiding additional economic impacts on the agricultural sector, and protecting the health of the environment.
Researchers at the MIT Media Lab are studying how building and material design affect the health and activity of honey bees. Responding to the colony collapse epidemic, they hope to shape how the buildings of the future are designed to promote bee health and possibly have beehives integrated directly into the building infrastructure.
The MIT Media Lab's research requires constant monitoring of bee activity that posed a challenge as the team planned to scale the project.
"Our research group were fortunate enough to work with TetraScience in a recent project involving honeybee hives. Bees are particularly susceptible to temperature and humidity, and these were two variables we needed to record over several months to observe behavioral changes in the natural outdoor environment."
The team turned to TetraScience to install webcams and sensors on all their beehives to capture real-time video and temperature information from the hives.
"Using the TetraScience system, we were able to accurately collect data as well as images to inform our experimentation. In addition, we could tune the system as needed for a variety of conditions, and the TetraScience team was extremely responsive and came up with creative solutions for us."
With TetraScience installed on their hives, researchers can monitor key experimental parameters remotely—removing the need to suit up and take these measurements themselves.
The TetraScience live feed has also become a valuable source of community education. The MIT Media Lab is now displaying the TetraScience dashboard in their lobby—using the visualized data as a powering promotional tool to drive community awareness of their efforts.
Thanks to TetraScience technology, over hundreds of hours have been saved to date and 686 bee stings averted.
As a company, Best Bees oversees the complete lifecycle of home beekeeping, from hive building and installation to honey harvesting. As the company grew, the executive team knew that they need a scalable way to remotely manage and monitor their growing network of hives.
Having heard of the work TetraScience had done with MIT Media Labs, the team chose TetraScience to install both sensors and webcams across their beehives.
Through the TetraScience dashboard, Best Bees staff and their clients can view real-time video and monitor temperature information from the hives—anytime, anywhere. TetraScience has drastically reduced costs of physical checks by staff and has enabled the team to support a wider geographic base for their home-based hives.
Starting in 2016, Best Bees will be embedding a TetraScience Link with every hive they ship to their customers.
• Beekeeping industry
• Agricultural sector
• Hive monitoring
• Environmental sustainability