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Honeybee Hive Monitoring

Recording weight, hive temperature, and weather data toward better management and understanding of honeybees.

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This project was created on 07/03/2014 and last updated 3 days ago.

The goal of this project is to build a system that records data from a beehive at roughly 5 minute intervals for later analysis. Data will include temperature, humidity and weight of a beehive as well as temperature, rainfall and other data from a weather station.

This data will be used primarily to track nectar collection to let me know when the bees need additional boxes for honey storage. I'm also hoping that patterns in the measured data will correlate strongly with problems like diseases, hive swarming or the death of the laying queen that could allow me to take quick action to correct problems in the future.


I have four little kids and a full time job, so I don't get out to the apiary as often as I'd like. I keep the hives healthy, but they do occasionally fill up most of their available space with nectar and slow down collection before I can get out there to add more boxes. This problem isn't unique to me -- any beekeeper with remote apiaries has to weigh the possibility that a sudden, strong nectar flow has filled up their hives against the time it takes to drive out and make an inspection. Measuring weight alone will eliminate this problem as I'll know exactly how much nectar is coming in and I can make a quick trip to add supers (honey collection boxes) when the nectar is flowing fast while spreading out my trips when the nectar is coming in slowly.

Additionally, NASA has a HoneyBeeNet program that relies on volunteers to manually record the hive weight every day so the local nectar flows can be correlated with satellite measurements of climate change and land use changes. Unfortunately, my hives are all installed at remote apiaries, and I can't visit them every day. 

I want to contribute to NASA's HoneyBeeNet program, save myself unnecessary trips out to the apiary, and frankly, I want to collect gobs of data from the hives to see what I might learn about easily detectable signs that something might be wrong.

First Prototype

I tried to document a lot of my work over the last couple years on my blog,, although I'll repeat a more concise (and uninterrupted) version here with the massive benefit of hindsight.

First, I purchased a range of scales and started ripping them apart to see how I could get them to meet my needs. I was very new to hacking electronics at this point, so I thought it would be easier to connect to a cheap scale than to try to build a scale from scratch. Unfortunately, I kept running into black potted chips on anything cheaper than the ADAMS CPWplus 200, which costs $163 at Amazon.

If I knew everything I've learned in the past 3 years, I would have gone a much different route from the start, but I finally settled on an CPWplus 200 scale. While it has a easily hackable serial interface, I found that the scale is designed to tare (zero) on powerup, and since I need to run the system at a remote apiary on a battery with solar, I badly wanted to turn off the scale between measurements!

Eventually, I gave up on turning off the scale and simply oversized the solar panel and battery to make up the difference. I added an Arduino Fio with XBee to stream the data back to over a nearby internet connection.

I successfully streamed data from a beehive to for about a week last spring before my buggy coding of the wireless connection started getting interrupted. Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to add an SD card to backup the data, and between life and work, I didn't have time to get it working again last year.

I knew that the load cells would be significantly sensitive to temperature, and this original data was quite noisy as I hadn't yet been able to calibrate the scale for temperature. Here's a sample of some data I collected while the system was working. I removed the temperature sensitivity with a regression analysis after the fact, so this data is somewhat questionable, but it shows what I expect to see once I've got a properly calibrated scale working.

Beehive Monitoring System Design

Here's my plans for the current beehive monitoring system. Instead of trying to rely on firmware that was designed for a postal scale and doesn't allow easy power management, I'll measure the load cells directly with a 24-bit ADC. The output of the HX711 ADC board will be read by the Apitronics Bee unit and, along with a temperature sensor inside the bee hive, sent to the Apitronics Hive that saves the data. I'll also be streaming the logged data to a cloud service so I can monitor my hives in real time!

I've chosen 200 kg (440 lbs) as a load limit for the scale...

Read more »


Project logs
  • First Signs of Temperature Sensitivity

    3 days ago • 0 comments

    After I got the HX711 working for the first time (after days of last-minute debugging code -- such a great feeling at the end!) I immediately walked away from the project and let it collect data for a couple of hours. The scale and Apitronics Bee were both sitting on my concrete basement floor, but since the scale has a metal housing, and the Bee is in a plastic box, the scale obviously responds to temperature changes much faster than the Bee.

    When I looked back at the data, I was at first shocked at how unstable the weight reading was, but when I looked closer and compared the weight data to the temperature data, I found that the weight dropped and the temperature started to slide down just at the point where I turned the air conditioning back on because we were all roasting after cooking for a party!

    Here's the temperature data (degrees C. on the vertical axis, time on the horizontal):

    That elbow at 15:00 is right when the air conditioning kicked in. Now here's the weight reading (pounds on the vertical, time on the horizontal):

    The weight of the hive was pretty steady after an initial rise that may be a combination of temperature and relaxation after loading the scale with 30 lbs, however, the sudden jump of 4 pounds when the A/C turns on is huge!

     If I'm interpreting the shift right, I've seen much more stable behavior in a more expensive scale, so I'm leaning toward using a large stand-alone load cell right away. I'm also quite unhappy with using an excitation voltage of only 2.8V for the postal scale when I could get almost 4X the signal (vastly improving the signal to noise ratio) by adding a regulator and bumping the voltage up to 10V.

    Just in case I make it to the next round of the hackaday prize competition, I think I'm going to get a new HX711 board (I fear the current one may have been compromised by some excessive soldering work) and mount it properly in the Apitronics Bee. If I make it to the next round, I will spend the next month characterizing the system and try to compensate for temperature factors by the new deadline at the end of October so I can have data from a real hive, even if it's less accurate than I'd like.

    If I don't make the next round of the hackaday prize competition, I think I'll step back, finish my design of the single-load cell scale, add the 10-12V regulator (paying careful attention to temperature sensitivity of the chosen regulator!) and significantly clean up the HX711 library so I can remove all the disclaimers about what NOT to do in a proper driver!

  • Video: Demonstrating Uploaded Data

    3 days ago • 0 comments

    I wanted to demonstrate uploaded video, but between the difficulty of recording the computer screen and the extra 4 minutes, I couldn't fit it into the official hackaday prize competition semifinals video.

    As I mentioned in the video, I'm not too concerned about short-term zero drift when the scale is suddenly loaded, because it's very rare that the beehive will experience a quick change in weight. It's mainly just during inspections when I might add or remove a box, and when I process the data for a long-term trend, I can simply throw out the first few datapoints after a load change.

  • Video: Update on Honeybee Hive Monitoring Prototype

    3 days ago • 0 comments

    Here's a quick update video on the status of the Honeybee Hive Monitoring Prototype. It's under 5 minutes to meet the requirements of the Hackaday Prize competition rules, and I think it's a good summary of where the project stands and some of the future changes that will significantly improve the system's performance.

    I'm back on 0.75 MB/s upload speed after switching from a nationally renouned cable company (in the US) to a regionally dominant phone company after I got fed up with supporting questionable business practices by the cable company and barely faster speeds.

    That said, as soon as my next video finishes uploading (hours from now), I'll add an update with a link to the video demonstrating that my system is, in fact, sending data via 900 MHz XBee from the Apitronics Bee module to the Beaglebone Black Hive, making it available on the local network via a webpage interface written by Apitronics.

View all 13 project logs

Build instructions
  • 1


    These instructions are somewhat premature and are intended to demonstrate the design for the prize competition. I'll be continuing to refine the instructions as I improve on the design and as issues crop up. Please get in touch with me to discuss what I'm confident in and what might need more work.

  • 2

    Set up and test Apitronics hardware

    Set up the Apitronics Bees and Beaglebone Black Hive to make sure all the hardware is working. They should just work out of the box, but the firmware for both the Apitronics Bee and the Apitronics Hive are still being improved, so it's important to verify that you've got the hardware working before modifying anything.

    Here's a link to the setup instructions.

    You'll want to make sure that the Beaglebone Black Hive is wired (via ethernet cable) to the same network as a computer for viewing data and adding the sensor to the database for scaling. You can either access the hive's basic graphing capabilities by typing "hive.local" into the command bar, or if that doesn't work, find the IP address assigned by your router and type that into the command bar.

    You should be able to navigate to a bee and see the various sensors (default of two onboard sensors for non-weatherstation Bees). The sensors are populated when the Bee first connects wirelessly to the hive, and they receive data both at the first connection and then every 15 minutes by default.

    Here's what the dashboard currently looks like (it's being improved by the Apitronics team and could change):

  • 3

    Add the HX711 sensor board to the Apitronics Bee.

    Connect the 4 wires from the scale to the 9-pin plug that passes through the weatherproof enclosure. These wires should be connected on the inside of the enclosure to E-, E+ (for excitation + and -) and A-, A+ (sense wires + and -) on the HX711 breakout board. The breakout board should be wired with Vcc to 3.3V, Gnd to Gnd, SCK to A0, and DT to A1.

    Make sure the HX711 sensor is glued or taped out of the way where it can't be shorted out by any stray wires.

    I'll add pictures and better instructions when I've completed this step myself -- in the mean time, if you want more details, contact me here or at

See all instructions


Gurzo wrote 5 days ago null point

why do you have placed the sensor in the top of the hive? instead of inside between the honeycombs

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Ken Meyer wrote 5 days ago 1 point

Great question! In that picture (the title picture which may change in the future), the wire at the top is just a temperature sensor. That hive has an entrance at the top and bottom, and I figured the top would be more influenced by the bees as heat rises.

The scale in that picture is connected by the mess of wires coming out the bottom left, but because it's hidden by the hive, it's not easy to see.

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Gurzo wrote 4 days ago null point

I was thinking about this: If the sensor is at the top, since hot air rises, you may get a false reading. but also on the bottom, due to the cold air which enters from the bottom retin. putting it inside would have a more accurate reading, but the risk is that the bees vested with propolis, as they do with any foreign matter inside the hive.

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Ken Meyer wrote 4 days ago null point

Oh, the sensor is certainly deep inside the top box of the hive. I'm using one of the waterproof temperature sensors from Sparkfun (I'm sure cheaper versions are available somewhere).

The sensor goes in the top entrance, but it's near the middle of the top box, so the temperature reading should be relatively accurate for the top honey box. Ideally, I'd like the sensor to be inside the brood chamber, and it'd be awesome to wire up a hive with a dense 3D array of sensors, but that's a LOT more work when you have to tear apart the hive for an inspection every few weeks.

As long as the sensor doesn't get shorted out (so waterproofing of some sort is important -- water and honey can drop anywhere at any time) any covering of propolis will just slightly slow down the sensor's reaction to temperature shifts by insulating it a bit.

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Gurzo wrote 4 days ago null point

the system that I'm planning (idea inspired by yours), plans to monitor temperature and humidity of 5 hive (plus environmental). then I will adopt a sensor cheaper as the DHT11, I will use a Raspberry Pi as a control center and a TP-Link WR703N + Huawei HSDPA + Key to access the internet and load the data on my server where it will build a chart. however, this type of sensor may be subject to propolis, then I insert in a small wire mesh cage to protect it and it will place here:

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lister wrote a month ago null point

If you're concerned about noise, there's a shielded version of the ebay HX711 breakouts too, about $1 more. Not sure if it will improve your measurements though.

Have you considered getting rid of the arduino and just using another BBB to simplify? This is the route I ended up taking since it's cheaper and simpler. The logic supply wifi adapters work well w/ bbb are cheap and you can use directional antennas. I hope to read the HX711 from BBB, but have not set this up yet, there is some github code using the RPi though.

I'm using a $20 Amazon Ravpower 5V supply w/ the bbb and get about 4-5 days of runtime blinking some leds. This pack can be charged while discharging too - solar panel should work fine. The cells are easily replaceable samsung 18650's
I know nothing about bees, so these suggestion may not work for your setup.

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Ken Meyer wrote 14 days ago null point

I looked at that shielded version, and it looks like they just added a little metal box over the board. Frankly I don't expect electrical noise to dominate the error, and if it does, the 4 wires leading to the load cell will act as much better antennas as anything directly on the board! There are filter caps on the load cell power and signal lines, so I suspect a little metal box won't change much. In terms of noise, I'm mainly talking about the signal to noise ratio. The chip is a 24-bit ADC, but I don't expect to get more than 18-20 bits of useful resolution due to noise -- partly avoidable with really good engineering, but partly unavoidable thermal noise.

The BBB eats up WAY too much power, hundreds of milliamps vs. the handful of milliamps the Apitronics Bees consume in normal (sleep-heavy) operation. It's absolutely possible to oversize the solar panels to handle that, and I'm sure there are tricks that could reduce the BBB power consumption somewhat, but for remote applications on solar panels, I think the BBB is a bad choice unless you absolutely need the computational power for some reason.

The 5V supply you talk about could last nearly forever powering the Bees, except that it will freeze in the winter and be destroyed during charging. Worse, those supplies usually have a minimum current draw of around 50mA, so while the capacity could power a Bee for weeks or months, in reality, it would just turn off after a few seconds assuming that nothing was plugged in!

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lister wrote 8 days ago null point

Thanks for the thorough reply Ken. I'll continue to follow your progress with the HX711.
Your weighing problem is more complex than mine since I expect loads to be removed frequently and can use a tare function to recalibrate, although I might still need to model thermal noise. I'll have some motors and drivers near by too, so wasn't sure about the shielded version.
Regarding BBB remote nodes, I think our applications have different requirements. I assumed you'd eventually have a camera at the hive too - I'm using a C920 with the BBB. I'm also not much of an embedded guy and have more comfort with a linux environment.
Good points about the power supply, there is a minimum power draw shutdown, but the case is easy to open and you may be able to disable this feature(?). I have had this style of battery (but not this supply) in freezing conditions and it seemed to continue functioning w/o impacting cycle life, although there might be some decrease in available current(?). I chose this supply because it was the cheapest option at 5v, and I knew I could replace the batteries if something went wrong.

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Ken Meyer wrote 4 days ago null point

The taring will help with accuracy, but remember that every time you change the load significantly, the load cell will drift for some time. I just got mine working overnight, and with a roughly 30 pound load, it drifted 5 pounds in the first few hours, and now it's steadier within a 1 pound range (with minimal temperature variation). This is due to the metal in the load cell physically shifting in response to the stress, so you can't avoid it, although different metals and designs might be less prone to this effect.

The motors could absolutely affect the reading, especially if wires with high current are run close and parallel to the load cell wires. That said, it should be a transient signal, and if you can program the system to run the load cell when the motors are stopped, or at LEAST make sure the motors are drawing a steady current (i.e. avoiding the extra noise from startup surge currents) you might not even notice. I would get the shield though, as long as you have little reason to go in and mess with components (see my update on changing the excitation voltage, probably not necessary for you).

I'd LOVE to have a camera, but I figure I'll take it one step at a time. Frankly, I'll probably sort out a separate webcam before I try to integrate anything, but in terms of long-term data, it'll be a lot easier to measure and draw conclusions from weight and temperature trends than by manually analyzing dozens or hundreds of pictures a day!

I'm not sure about disabling the minimum power draw shutdown. I woukldn't mess with the circuitry of a potentially explosive Li-ion battery unless I was darned sure I could adjust the power-off function without affecting any of the safety circuitry. I know some power supplies chips are designed to run only at certain currents, I think to both reduce cost and increase efficiency. The battery packs can have huge capacity though, so simply lowering power draw could be sufficient as long as you buy a solar panel large enough to charge the battery for 2-3 days minimum running (in case of a few stormy days, depending on your reliability needs).

Lithium Ion batteries CAN discharge in sub zero temperatures, but if you try to charge a fully frozen battery, it will plate the anode with lithium and destroy the battery. For more information see here:

I'd put the battery in with a temperature probe and disable charging below 32F. With some insulation, you could even turn on a small heater to bring the temperature back up to 50 degrees (discharging is ok) to get it back up to where it's safe to charge again. Charging heats the battery, so you could probably charge all day after heating the battery once in the morning.

Personally, I prefer lead acid as I said, but while the explosion or fire risk is lower, the batteries still need to be treated with respect to avoid build-up of explosive hydrogen in case of over-charging.

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Christoph wrote a month ago null point

Congratulations! You made it!

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Greg Kennedy wrote a month ago null point

Your most recent project log video is set to private : (

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Ken Meyer wrote a month ago null point

Thanks for pointing it out! I had some trouble last night getting the file uploaded, and while I fixed the link in the project links, apparently I forgot to fix the project log!

Here's the correct link:

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Christoph wrote a month ago null point

Hey Ken, I just read your project log about getting good data from the scale, and how the operating environment might impact them. A long-term drift measurement in an environment with changing temperature would certainly not be hard to to set up, but very enlightening. Couldn't sorting this out in a separate project be very useful to others as well, not just beekeepers?

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Ken Meyer wrote a month ago null point

Hey Christoph!

First, I want to comment on your terminology. Long term drift IS a major concern because the load cell will subtly deform over long periods even within its rated load (if overloaded, it will also "drift" but the drift may be less subtle). Load cells are specified at a maximum drift over 30 minutes, but since I'll be using them for years, this could become a major factor in long-term reliability. Practically it won't affect my ability to see when honey is coming in, but if I want accurate measurements, it may require monthly (or weekly?) calibration. I'm hoping that the drift slows and nearly stops after a few days or a week, but I haven't tested it yet.

To your specific point about temperature, I do think this could be useful to anyone looking for high accuracy data logging! However, in most cases, the scale can be tared before use, eliminating at least half of the error (that from drift of the zero point), and any scale used indoors will experience only very minor temperature fluctuations. A very easy way to improve the resolution of a load cell is to simply reduce the range, but in this case, I'm limited by the potential full weight of a beehive, so I don't have that option.

More generally, any circuit or measurement device will experience variation with large temperature changes, so the process of temperature compensation may be useful to someone else who's trying to measure something outside year round. Even for someone with a strained relationship with math, it's really pretty easy to take data at 3-5 temperatures with a known weight and get a compensation factor that can be added to the datalogger's firmware. I'm wary that drift in the circuit or load cell could cause the compensation factor to change, so I may test the compensation once a year or so, but as before, this is only necessary to get precise accuracy over the full range of conditions. In almost all hobbyist cases, it's probably enough to be aware of the rough magnitude of the source of error and to simply design experiments that don't require such high precision over such a wide range of conditions.

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Christoph wrote a month ago null point

Ken, commenting on your comment on my terminology: Now that I re-read my comment, it was not clear in the point you are addressing. Let me re-phrase it:

Setting up a separate experiment (besides you beehives) for getting compensation data for the load cells would certainly not be hard to set up. That way you can take measurements with your hives far away from home and have a second project whose purpose is to get the errors corrected. I'm well aware of long-term drift and my point was to have a closer look at that without disturbing the bees. When that is done, you can correct your already collected data from the bee hives - so no wasted measurements.

Actually I had a look at industrial load cells today and they are very expensive. Coming up with a good hacked alternative would be a cool project, I'm now looking into that.

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Ken Meyer wrote a month ago null point

It seems weird to me that I can't reply to your reply...

Anyway, I got 10 of these 200kg load cells from aliexpress, and while I haven't tested them beyond getting a signal out, they look very well made. I obviously have some questions about their specifications, but at $30 each, they're not too pricey!

The 5-10x markup for purchasing from a reliable company is certainly worth the cost if you absolutely need to hit specifications, but it's not remotely worth the added price to me when I'm trying to build a low-cost scale for each of my hives!

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Christoph wrote a month ago null point

Indeed the ones you found are way cheaper than what I've found here in the industrial range, and they will probably suffice. So that would be 1 load cell with 200 kg full scale range for each apiary?

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Ken Meyer wrote a month ago null point

An apiary is a collection of hives, and honestly, I don't think one monitored hive is enough since there are so many variables that could influence nectar collection. If you meant one per hive though, yes, it'd just take one load cell per hive.

The scale frame should be designed to reject side loads (probably touching down if pushed toward any side) since these load cells can be damaged, ESPECIALLY in commercial use where glued-together, 50+lb boxes (glued with the bee's propolis, made from tree sap) are being jerked around. Frankly, a commercial design might require a higher max limit load cell to prevent damage from shocks, but I'm betting that as a careful and slow hobbyist, I can get away with a lower damage threshold to get higher resolution.

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Adam Fabio wrote 2 months ago null point

Hi Ken! Thanks for entering The Hackaday Prize! I really love the way you've used low cost materials where possible - like that electronic scale. Way cheaper to use one of those than an industrial load cell! Don't forget about the 2 minute video for the first round of competition. I wish you sweet success on your way to space!

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Ken Meyer wrote 2 months ago null point

Thanks Adam! The apitronics system is overkill for a system with minimal cost, but I badly want a full streaming system working reliably before I try to gut it and demonstrate lowest cost options for simple datalogging and simple GSM transmission.

Yesterday I talked to a guy who just wants the data saved to an SD card he can swap out each time he visits the hive. Once I get this system working, I'll make him one of those easily in time for the spring start of beekeeping season.

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Eric Tsai wrote 3 months ago null point

Hello fellow Twin Cities resident,
Very cool project. I like the practicality of it. I also like the Apitronics kickstarter and Louis Thiery's commitment to open source. Very good project - good in the sense of generosity.

If you ever have a need to add more sensors here and there, feel free to contact me. I might be able to help you. I'm an Arduino user, and my project is actually very similar to the Apitronics project. We're both using Arduino as field nodes communicating with a SBC, in my case I'm using a Raspberry Pi. And we have free reign over what sensors to mount on the field Arduino node. A program running on the Raspberry Pi provides the interface to show you current sensor data, as well as the capability to push data out to Xively or whatever cloud telemetrics service you might be using for data collection and charting. I don't have any bees, so I'm monitoring my garage temperature/humidity. But it's the same idea.

How far away are you from your bee hives?

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Ken Meyer wrote 3 months ago null point

I'm about 45 minutes away from both my apiaries, one over by Wisconsin and another to the north.

I'll have to build an OpenHAB system at my house once I get the beehives wired up and running reliably. I'll definitely spend some quality time reading through your blog for ideas!

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johannesgj wrote 3 months ago null point

I will try to spread the word in denmark and see if the local bee hive communities want to collab on data gathering.

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Ken Meyer wrote 3 months ago null point

That's awesome! I've been in touch with a commercial beekeeper in Australia who is interested in a simpler GSM version that texts the weight once a day, and which I think is very possible with basic components like Arduinos, and could work reasonably well without temperature compensation to track trends and allow a beekeeper to know when to drive out a few hours to their remote apiary to add room for honey collection.

I try to be very up-front with people that my pace of development is very slow due to my work and family responsibilities, but once I have a working system, and especially if your local beekeepers can collaborate with local electronics hobbyists, this weight tracking should be quite straightforward on a range of budgets.

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johannesgj wrote 3 months ago null point

This project can have an outstanding collective impact on our ecosystem. Bee death is everywhere. Thanks for keeping an eye on them :-)

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Ken Meyer wrote 3 months ago null point

I agree, it's an important issue, and even worse than with honeybees, there are countless native pollinators that aren't being closely tracked, but are likely just as susceptible to growing use of new pesticides!

I honestly don't think bees are going to suddenly go extinct, but almond pollination prices have tripled in the last decade, largely because it's getting harder and harder to keep hives alive over the winter.

As an engineer, I'm convinced that we simply need more data, and while I can't afford to attempt randomized experiments on dozens of hives at multiple locations, I CAN work on helping beekeepers like me to collect and analyze data from their hives!

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