An image of the BeeMon monitoring hardware mounted on a beehive.

A Project with Purpose

A good cup of coffee, chocolates that melt in your mouth, a nice glass of wine with dinner; sometimes it’s the little things that make life delicious. These are just a few of the simple pleasures of life that are dependent on the pollination of bees. Fruits, nuts, vegetables, berries,...approximately one third of our food supply in all depends on the efforts of the humble bee.

The bee population has been suffering terrible losses, however. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has had beekeepers and researchers scrambling for answers for over a decade now. While 19% is the threshold for what are considered sustainable losses, beekeepers are seeing annual losses averaging closer to 30%. Something must be done to reverse this trend and recover populations.

But what can be done? It is said that knowledge is power. To that end, BeeMon was conceived as a low-cost system for beehive monitoring. For more than half a decade now students and faculty at Appalachian State University’s Computer Science Department have been working to develop tools to collect and analyze data and deliver it from the hive right to the beekeeper’s fingertips.

”Throughout my time on the project team, I’ve touched almost every sector of computer science in one way or another from Embedded Systems to Application Development to Algorithms to Web Development...The most exciting part of my work on the BeeMon project has been pushing my boundaries. I’ve learned as much in my work on the BeeMon team as I have throughout my coursework at Appalachian State! The best way to learn is through application!” – Gurney Buchanan, student researcher

It all starts with the hardware. The current system is based on the Raspberry Pi – a low-cost, palm-sized computer. The Raspberry Pi is then connected to dual microphones, a camera, and sensors for collecting temperature and humidity at the hive-site. The system is protected from environmental hazards using a custom 3D-printed beehive-mountable case with an integrated camera mount.

The data collected by the BeeMon hardware is then passed to the BeeVee and BeePhon tools for processing and analysis. Meanwhile. the whole system can be controlled using the BeeCon BeeMon controller. The goal is to be able to monitor the health of hives, promptly identify abnormal conditions, and alert beekeepers to situations that might require corrective action.

Funding for the BeeMon project has been made possible with support from the Lowe’s Distinguished Professor research fund.