Tradition and beekeeping go hand-in-hand. For a hobby with such a long history, this is no surprise. We still rely heavily on beehive designs and principles that have been used for hundreds of years.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s a problem to be fixed. If the design of a Langstroth respects bee space, then no fancy new design is going to come up with a “better bee space”. There are certain principles that both tradition and new designs have to reflect.
The other side of that coin, of course, is that a little creativity can go a long way. Beyond the aforementioned basic principles, perhaps there are other aspects of beekeeping that can be radically improved with a little innovation.
Although Flow Hive is probably the innovation that has received the most attention, there are many other beekeeping areas being driven by technology and science. In this lesson, we take a high-level look at just a few interesting innovative efforts in beekeeping.
An important note: Our intent here is only to raise awareness of these sites and services, with links to each one. Nothing below should be considered a PerfectBee recommendation. Any prices referenced are purely illustrative and based on prices quoted at the time of writing (Dec 2018).
An important task for the beekeeper is to keep track of what is happening within his or her hives. Of course, paper and pen are perfectly effective at doing this. But one could also say that pen and paper are “effective” at delivering a message to someone 1,000 miles away (in days gone by, this was called a “letter”!). They are – but that doesn’t mean eMail isn’t often a better way.
Technology offers the same and often a lot more. So while you can indeed track progress the old-fashioned way, you do so in one particular way. You have no easy way to slice and splice the data and spot trends you may otherwise have missed.
But there’s an app for that. Actually, there are a number of apps for that…
Hive Tracks is a mobile app and service that lets you track the progress of your hives and keep tabs on your bees. It makes your important information readily accessible and shareable, can create interactive maps and calendars to keep track of where your bees are going and suggest when you might need to open up the hive.
The app is available for a free trial and has a low monthly cost. The Newbee level tracks up to 5 hives and is $5 per month.
This is another Smartphone-based app with the standard and effective set of hive tracking features. The developers are a little coy about the price, which is never a good sign. There is nothing obvious on their site, aside from a mention that it is “less than 2.5 euros per month” for unlimited hives. We don’t like that lack of transparency but if you want to give it a shot there is a 30-day free trial.
BeeTight is a free app available for iPhone/IPad, Android and the web. Some information from their site on the feature set…
“… records laying pattern and temperament on a six-point scale. You can also say whether you have seen the queen or eggs. There is space to record any queen cells spotted, or whether there are excessive drone cells. You can record varroa drop counts, as well as any treatments that you may have given.”
One area where technology can help a great deal is in measuring and monitoring beehives. By using scales, monitors and sensors, a significant number of data points can be gathered. This data can be collected, uploaded to a web-based service and analyzed.
The folks at SolutionBee offer a monitor that is very popular with commercial beekeepers but has also proven useful to hobbyist beekeepers (and relatively deep pockets).
Their approach features the Smart Hive Monitor as the centerpiece, gathering information from each hive. This integrates with a data collector app and both web and mobile apps. The end result is a rich solution that tracks many aspects of the beehive, including weight, temperature and even motion. The monitor has an NFC module so data can be sent directly to a smartphone app (ioS or Android) and subsequently to the web.
Arnia is a UK-based company focused on software and remote hive monitoring for tracking temperature, humidity and motion activity. and check this information from any computer or phone. It’ll also send you an emergency alert if your hive gets blown over or stolen.
This is a Portuguese company that combines software and hardware to keep bees happier and healthier. Like the others, it monitors and keeps track of temperature, weight, activity and more!
Apis combines this with their own hive design, coated with Portuguese cork that regulates temperature and stands up to the elements.
An interesting app that helps you identify and plant flowers suitable for your bees. It offers advice on seasonal planting and has specific advice for the local area.
With your location specified (your phone probably knows this!), you enter details about the pollinators you have in mind – that would be bees! – local soil conditions and so on. The database includes over 1,000 native plants from which it will make recommendations.
Open Source Beehives
As the name implies, Open Source Beehives is based on an open-source source approach to beekeeping. Among many options, you can download beehive plans to make yourself.
The technical element comes from their offering a range of sensors, again with an open source mentality. These include sensors for temperature, humidity, sound and so on.
The status of this initiative is unclear at this stage and the site doesn’t seem to be current. Efforts to contact the team by PerfectBee were unsuccessful. An interesting initiative, though.
Though much smaller in scale and awareness than Flow Hive (presumably the lack of millions of dollars of investment may be a factor there!), Thermosolar draws as much heated debate. Literally.
This product focuses on eliminating the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. How does it do this? By baking the whatsit out of them!
The Thermosolar is a specially designed cover that is used for a couple of hours to raise the temperature inside the hive to very high levels. In simple terms, the theory is that this has a catastrophic effect on the mites, but the bees come through with flying colors.
Skeptical? Yeah, we are too, but here’s their FAQ.