The largest apicultural congress in the world, Apimondia, took place from 8 to 12 September 2019, in Montreal, Canada. With thousands of participants and hundreds of exhibitors, the event was a meeting point for beekeepers, entrepreneurs, researchers and other stakeholders concerned for bee health. The congress had a large variety of subjects, including the honey market, production, biological and veterinary aspects, the impact of policies on bee health, and many more. Amid the wide variety of relevant bee-health subjects, participants could also learn and discuss the latest advances in bee monitoring. The congress featured a symposium on Innovations for Monitoring Colonies, and the Internet of Bees (IoBee) was one of the exhibitors.

During the symposium, exhibitors focused on different methods for monitoring the colony. The symposium featured different perspectives, from analysing DNA to monitor bee pests, parasites and pathogens, to thermofluid analysis to measure behaviour.

IoBee focused on its developments to integrate four different aspects of bee-health monitoring. Thanks to an interdisciplinary approach, IoBee reconciles beehive digital monitoring, monitoring density and diversity of pollinators in the field, integrating big data and the processing and analysis of spatial information.

First, the project aims at improving non-invasive beehive digital monitoring through the development of an optical bee counter. The bee counter tracks the entrance and exit of bees to the colony, providing valuable information for assessing its health. It allows to identify the strength of the foraging force, determine mortality rates in the field, and identify deviations in flight duration and nectar availability. The counter also identifies pests entering and leaving the hive while classifying and distinguishing drone and worker bee traffic. Acquiring these different types of information make the counter the first in-field tool to better monitor honeybees.

Bee counter in IoBee field tests in Belgium

One of the goals of the project is to exponentiate the benefits of monitoring the entrance of honeybee colonies. It looks to do so by pairing it with other technologies. Thanks to the synergy with other digital monitoring devices designed to detect pollinators in the field, the project expands from beehive monitoring. These in-field sensors are capable of identifying both the density and diversity of wild pollinators as well as invasive insect species.

Optoelectronic sensor in development in IoBee for insect count and species identification

In addition to these two complementary monitoring tools in the field, IoBee couples them with satellite data. With it, it makes available information on vegetation, ground temperatures and other environmental variables to provide intelligent warning systems.

These predictive tools will serve beekeepers and beekeeping associations to aid management decisions concerning nectar flows, risks of infestations from pests such as small hive beetle and the Asian hornet, pathologies and the use of crop protection products. Besides, the data has the scope to inform public bodies and governmental authorities with decisions on pollinator conservation, land management and climate change.

The developments in IoBee proceed to advance and to be exposed in European and worldwide stages. This direct contact with beekeepers, scientists and entrepreneurs from around the world continues fueling the project to move forward for improving the health of bees through better monitoring.