IoBee integrates several dimensions of monitoring to help understand the factors that impact the health of bees. From beehive monitoring to satellite imaging, it includes both in-field and external data. Another pillar in the project is the development of bioacoustics devices. These devices monitor the density and diversity of pollinators in the field. Project partner Irideon is responsible for this new device, and it is already part of current field tests.

Bees are at the core of the Internet of Bees. However, they are not isolated. Other pollinators also play an essential role in the balance of ecosystems. Managed bees present an excellent opportunity for monitoring, but to improve our knowledge of conditions in the field, we also need to monitor other species. Which is why monitoring the density and variety of other pollinators is necessary.

Traditionally, monitoring pollinators or the diversity of insects in the field involve mechanical technologies. There are many varieties since they all depend on the type of insect and habitat for which researchers or authorities use them. For winged insects, some common traps include interception traps, which captures the insect in a net and leads it to a collecting tube; sticky traps, using clear panels with an adhesive surface, and bucket traps among others [1].

There is a wide variety of mechanisms and cues for attraction, including sound, visual or even chemical options such as the use of pheromones. Nevertheless, they usually depend on trapping and disturbing insects once trapped. Even if the caught amount would not be significant for the insect population, new options that have a lesser impact continuously draw more interest.

Another challenge to surmount is the need for maintenance and further technical labour. Traditional traps require periodic revisions followed by manual observations. Such efforts are expensive and time-consuming for authorities and researchers trying to measure the quality of the environment or the health status of pollinators. Therefore, digital technologies have made their way as an alternative to mechanical traps. IoBee recognises this opportunity and is aiming at providing a ground-breaking alternative.

Project partner Irideon has developed an optoelectronic sensor that automatically provides insect count and identifies different species. The sensor responds to the challenges of traditional traps in two ways. First, the sensor is placed in an open space, dismissing the need for trapping insects. It identifies flying insects that go through the device without disturbing them. In the short time that the insect flies through, the sensor identifies its flight pattern and matches it with a species in the database. Thanks to this technology, there is no need to trap nor disturb insects in the field.

The sensor also represents a significant improvement towards automatization. It requires little maintenance and, more importantly, it leaves aside the need for manual counts or check-ups. Following the general logic of the IoBee project, the sensor benefits from developments in the Internet of Things to help facilitate monitoring efforts. It presents the potential to expand the monitoring of pollinators and to save time for researchers in the field. As a result, the optoelectronic sensor is an excellent alternative to traditional traps. It amounts to a respectful and effective way to improve pollinator counts and identifying diversity in the field.

Besides its value for research in the field, the sensor presents an opportunity for beekeepers and beekeeping associations. It is able to detect plagues that affect honeybees, such as the Vespa Velutina or Asian hornet. This invasive species, for example, has been constantly spreading throughout Europe and has become a challenge for beekeeping activity. The sensor allows for early detection, which later translates into improving the chance for more effective responses from individuals, associations and authorities.

IoBee optoelectronic sensor in field tests in Belgium

The most significant potential of the sensor, however, lies in its embeddedness in IoBee. The sensor is integrated with all other developments in the project, meaning that it is a component in a more comprehensive set of solutions. The sensor works in synergy with in-hive monitoring that monitors parameters such as bee traffic and activity, and even with satellite imaging, which presents crucial information such as phenology. The integration of these technologies not only raise the value of the sensor but provide an innovative approach to measure the complex issues that affect bees and pollinators in general.

Innovations in digital technologies continue to penetrate different sectors. IoBee is working to help improve provide the optimal tools that researchers and authorities need to understand and tackle the pollinator crisis. Its proposal stands on integrating new developments within a tri-dimensional system (in-hive, in-field, satellite). By applying new technological developments, IoBee is creating integrated solutions to help bees, pollinators in general and, therefore, the environment.

[1] Epsky, N. D., Morrill, W. L., & Mankin, R. W. (2008). Traps for capturing insects. Encyclopedia of Entomology, 3887-3901.