Honeybee Hive Monitoring

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

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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...

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  • I didn't win a trip to space!

    Ken Meyer10/13/2014 at 18:26 4 comments

    On one hand, I was hopeful, but I've really been pushing my free time to meet the competition deadlines! I'll be able to actually take a break now and again and work on other projects as my interest drifts!

    I'm so close that I WILL be finishing and installing a prototype very soon, but polishing of the documentation will wait until I have something I'd want people to copy.

    As always, let me know if you are trying to copy my work (or any part of it). I don't need any attribution (unless you copy my revision of the Apitronics firmware that is covered under GPL 3.0) but I probably have a list of improvements and suggestions that haven't been published but could save you a lot of time!

    In other news, I have a frame built around a load cell! I want to replace the cheap little washers with spacer plates for more stability, and I'm a bit concerned about how much the system can bend, but I'll test it out with a dummy hive first and make sure that it's not too bad before installing it semi-permanently.

    Again, I don't really recommend using OpenBeam for this application (although it could probably work with some additional cross-beams) but I'll learn a lot from it before I jump into a welded frame.

    On the electronics side, last night, I was about to put together a circuit to drive the load cell at 10V when I realized I need an inductor I don't have on hand -- I really should read datasheets more carefully BEFORE ordering components...

  • Change in Load Cell

    Ken Meyer10/09/2014 at 01:49 0 comments

    It'll be a couple days until I know if I made it into the final round of the Hackaday Prize competition, but in the mean time, I've made some great progress toward a better scale.

    I've been very unimpressed with the temperature sensitivity of the cheap postal scale, especially when I had much better results with the $160 Adams postal scale, so I've always wanted to mount my own load cell on a simple frame. However, I really don't think wood will be strong enough to handle the 400+ pound load, especially considering transient loads when heavy boxes are heaved onto the hive, and given that the load cell is mounted top and bottom on a cantilevered 1" square.

    My plan has always been to get a metal plate welded into a steel frame of square tubing, but that involves either a few weeks of learning basic welding or begging for friends to help. Somehow I saw a reference to OpenBeam, a kickstarter open-source aluminum extrusion system, and I picked up the pieces I'd need to build a frame for my scale!

    Here's the frame with the aluminum plate slotted nicely into the extrusion and supported on all sides. I originally tried an H configuration, but found it to be awfully twisty so I added additional cross pieces at the top and bottom of the H. The extrusion isn't exactly cheap, but it gives me a lot of flexibility in prototyping (for example, quickly and easily adding extra bracing) that I wouldn't have if I had jumped straight to a welded piece.

    I had the 1/8" aluminum plate machined for me to the right dimensions from As is often the case, I don't really have the right tools for machining easily available to me, and they (along with other machining services) make life a LOT easier for this kind of prototyping!

    I still need to pop 4 holes in the aluminum for mounting the load cell, bolt together the second frame (one above, one below the load cell) then it'll be ready to test it out. Here's the load cells I'm using. The aluminum plate is sized to be about 1" wider than the load cell, and the width was tweaked to 2.65" to match the length of those precut small pieces I got on

    I also quickly ordered some regulators from Digikey to increase the excitation voltage. I'm bumping the 3.3V up to 12V, then using a 10V voltage reference to drive the load cell. I'm still worried about drift between the HX711 and the voltage reference adding to the error, but in a final design, I'll need to test out a few designs. Off hand, I'll probably try using temperature-stable resistors in a voltage divider (as long as any temperature variation is consistant, I should be able to remove it in software), try a 5V reference that can be used directly in the MCP3551 22bit ADC.

    In short, while I might have a system running very soon, I've got months of testing to find the best configuration before I really settle on a design (at which point, some brilliant EE will likely jump in and show me how it really SHOULD be done) but I'm very close to deploying a system that actually collects data!

  • First Signs of Temperature Sensitivity

    Ken Meyer09/29/2014 at 01:14 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

    Ken Meyer09/29/2014 at 00:41 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

    Ken Meyer09/28/2014 at 20:31 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.

  • Added Github Repository (Licensing is Hard)

    Ken Meyer09/28/2014 at 01:37 0 comments

    [EDITED 28 September 2014 to replace reference to a CC license with the GPL 3.0 license after Apitronics added the GPL3.0 license to their github repository]

    Here's a repository for my edited Apitronics code. I added a lot of disclaimers in the AHX711 library -- don't use that except in an emergency (or as a reference, I suppose, I did point out what not to repeat, like defining pins in a driver)! It works, and my priority is to finish documentation for the hackaday prize competition rather than focusing on code that's a few steps beyond my comfort level (and which will break if I look at it funny, much less try to fix my bad coding practices).

    In other news, open source licensing is hard! I've followed open source software and hardware for years, I've read licenses, and I'm fully on board with the goals of open source hardware and software! That's one of the big reasons I backed the Apitronics Kickstarter since their designs and software are all open source too!

    That said, supporting a movement is different from trying to comply with copyright law myself, and I have a lot of uncertainty about the details.

    The short version is that the Apitronics Bee software is licensed under GPL3.0, a license designed to preserve the following "freedoms" (from this quick guide to GPL 3.0)

    Nobody should be restricted by the software they use. There are four freedoms that every user should have:

    • the freedom to use the software for any purpose,
    • the freedom to change the software to suit your needs,
    • the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and
    • the freedom to share the changes you make.

    • I Wrote a Working Library!

      Ken Meyer09/27/2014 at 01:17 0 comments

       In my last update, I had just about given up because adding to the Apitronics Bee code seemed too difficult in the time I had remaining. I actually "gave up" repeatedly, but being an engineer, I just kept thinking about the problem, and I was lucky to be able to take today off work (with a wife who let me lock myself in the basement!) and I got the system working!

      It's a messy prototype, but that's fine, and I've got a wonderful (although unscaled) graph of data from a load cell below! The peak on the left is where I pressed on the scale to get a higher reading!

      Scaling should be relatively straightforward and I'll finish that tonight. Then I'll spend the rest of the weekend documenting the prototype for the prize competition. It's down to the wire, and I've got a lot of work to do, but with the prototype running, I don't have to fight with how to write up build instructions for an incomplete project!

    • Foiled by Drivers!

      Ken Meyer09/21/2014 at 22:16 0 comments

      I've got everything ready to integrate. I should be able to just slip the HX711 board into a Apitronics Bee enclosure, and bogde has written a lovely, open source HX711 driver with examples here, but the Apitronics Bee firmware has drivers that simplify programming a bit TOO much. Back when I was taking C++ classes, this wouldn't be a problem, but I've forgotten too much to just slip a new sensor into the BeeCore firmware (even sloppily).

      That's not the end of this project! I'm sure the Apitronics folks will help me get it working when they have time, and I could probably figure it out within 2-3 weeks on my own, but this might be as far as I get by a week from now, September 29, the Semifinal deadline for the Hackaday Prize.

      I'm going to keep plugging away, and I'll update the rest of this project page to reflect my current progress.

      In case anybody wants to help with the programming on short notice, I'll describe what I think needs to happen.

      In the HX711 example (here) I want to use the function "scale.get_units(10)" to get the average of 10 measurements from the HX711 board. I think this function needs to be written into a driver, along with the definition of HX711.DOUT and HX711.PD_SCK using this function, "HX711 scale(A1, A0);"

      The firmware on the Apitronics Bee will be a modified "BeeCore" and the HX711 driver needs to follow the form of the other sensors, for example the WeatherPlug.

      The current code is as follows from BeeCore (I'll want to add a 3rd sensor, the HX711):

      Sensor * sensor[] = {&onboardTemp, &batteryGauge};
      Sensorhub sensorhub(sensor,NUM_SENSORS);
      #define NUM_SENSORS 2

      Finally, here's the code in void loop() that actually samples the sensors. It's been so simplified by the drivers that I can't just slip in a number at the end of an array. I really appreciate the programming work here, I'm just over my head trying to learn or re-learn (sometimes it's hard to tell which) how to modify it to do what I want.

      //this if statement just samples
      if( clock.triggeredByA1() || buttonPressed || firstRun){
      Serial.println("Sampling sensors");

    • Modifying the HX711 Breakout Board for 3.3V operation

      Ken Meyer09/17/2014 at 01:32 1 comment

      I had a great project update ready this weekend, but when I stopped working on it for a while to attend to real life, my computer decided to reboot (even though I have it set to manual update only!). I suppose that's the price for using an alpha service like this that doesn't allow draft updates!

      Anyway, I'll give an abbreviated update (and I'll probably add some more minor updates instead of trying to write out complete little articles). 

      As I mentioned before, the HX711 breakout boards I've found work at 5V. That's fine for many applications, but the Apitronics Bees run at 3.3V, and for the prototype, I don't want to mess with other voltages. This will cut the resolution of the system since the signal from a load cell scales linearly with the excitation voltage whereas the noise floor is likely to stay roughly constant. However, adding a higher voltage (probably 10-12V just to energize the load cell presents another set of complications. The resolution is technically going to be higher, but without really careful engineering, the temperature sensitivity could get out of hand if the 10V regulator drifted relative to the 3.3V regulator in the Apitronics Bee, or worse, the 1.25V voltage reference in the HX711 chip. 

      I'd rather lose sensitivity in my early prototype than have additional complex temperature coefficients, so I'm going to just drop the HX711 excitation voltage to 3.3V for now.

      Another, less temperature-sensitive method would be to run the board at 5V (the HX711 chip can't take more than 5.5V) and simply use a level shifter board to get the signal back to the Apitronics Bee, but again, if I can manage to do this prototype without adding more regulators and breakout boards, I'll keep it simple at the expense of some resolution.

      Here's a picture of my breakout board showing the resistor that needs to be swapped out with a 12k resistor to drop the excitation voltage (E+ to E-) from 4.35V down to around 3.1V (at least 0.1V below the input voltage of 3.3V). This is based on the equation in the HX71`1 datasheet that gives voltage as VAVDD=VBG*(R1+R2)/ R1. Note that this equation in the datasheet is wrong and gets the simple voltage divider backwards -- R1 and R2 should be swapped either in the equation or in figure 1 (!) to get near the measured 4.35V  rather than well under 2V.

      A quick calculation (with the error corrected) shows that swapping the 20k Ohm resistor (R12 on the board and on the schematic here) with a 12k Ohm resistor should drop the voltage to 3.1V. I pulled out my trusty soldering iron and Voila, the voltage dropped to 3.14V, just as expected!

      Another quick note: while this breakout board is usually marketed as a 5V board (mainly due to the values of R12 and R13, there's no reason it won't work at 3.3V since the HX711 is well within specification at that voltage. I'll admit, it's possible there's something I haven't thought of that will cause a problem when I hook it up to the lower voltage, but I'll give it a quick test with a protected voltage supply before hooking it up to the Apitronics Bee.

      [EDIT 27 Sep 14] I noticed that the input voltage can droop to as low as 3.0V for some reason. It could be an issue with the power regulator, or some excessive resistance in my setup (which includes a cheap breadboard) or maybe my cheap multimeter is off. Still, I wanted to be safe, so I swapped out the 12k Ohm resistor I put in for a lower, 10k Ohm resistor for an excitation of around 2.8V.

    • Choosing the HX711 over the MCP3551

      Ken Meyer08/21/2014 at 01:39 0 comments

      Frankly, the choice of high resolution ADC was primarily due to my having trouble with PIC programming! I had a program that was very close to what I needed, and I could trigger the MCP3551 to take a measurement and verify that the data was being sent back to the PIC with a logic analyzer, but I just couldn't get the PIC to read the data, and I didn't have the hours of dedicated debug time to find the solution.

      Here's a video showing the board I designed in KiCAD to hold a PIC microcontroller and the MCP3551 (as well as various regulators and connectors) along with the HX711 board I am ultimately working with now.

    View all 15 project logs

    • 1
      Step 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
      Step 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
      Step 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

    View all 10 instructions

    Enjoy this project?



    Viktor wrote 12/23/2015 at 10:14 point

    Hello Ken, you have nice project, really liked) Trying to build smth similar. Interesting about accuracy of micro load cells (cheap chinese, you tried it in beginning) what is there accuracy? and precision due to temperature intervals?

      Are you sure? yes | no

    michel.pequignot wrote 05/03/2015 at 08:01 point

    How do you deal with load cell creep and hysteresys ?

      Are you sure? yes | no

    Ken Meyer wrote 05/03/2015 at 15:35 point

    Those are a big concern and are going to be a major issue long-term. I'm hoping that creep turns out to be negligible after a few days under a nearly constant load. It will be pretty easy to characterize zero drift and creep by periodically checking the scale's calibration with a couple known weights. 

    While I'm not confident that there will be low enough drift to be useful for the NASA data collection program, I'm very sure it will be low enough to use for rough monitoring of nectar collection and hive health.

    As for hysteresis, I intend to ignore it as largely unimportant. Again, it's characterizable, and I'm sure I'll do an experiment at some point to measure it, but I don't expect the magnitude of the errors introduced to change significantly. It will slightly change the weight of the bees I see leaving in the morning and returning in the evening, but it won't significantly affect the two long-term trends -- honey coming in over the summer and honey leaving during the winter.

    If I get a load cell with really unacceptable hysteresis, I'll definitely have to look for a better supplier, but in reality, if the maximum (or minimum) weight of the hive is affected consistently by a pound or two, it won't affect any conclusions about the hive or when local plants are putting out nectar.

    I'm also sure there are ways to engineer out these kinds of errors -- either through more expensive load cells or through scale design. I haven't had any reason to waste time on this just yet, but if I get a dozen scales collecting data, I fully intend to buy some textbooks and find some experts to consult with.

      Are you sure? yes | no

    michel.pequignot wrote 05/03/2015 at 16:13 point

    I agree, the most important thing is honey inputs and outputs.

    I will try FX1901 100 lbf load cell which seems have less temperature drift but only 1% accuracy.

      Are you sure? yes | no

    michel.pequignot wrote 05/10/2015 at 07:58 point

    In the chapter "First Signs of Temperature Sensitivity", you present charts made with temperature and raw weight datas. 
    Can you confirm that the gross weight data are from GYE112C load cell ?
    Would it be possible to publish the temperatures and weight data as a .csv or .txt file ?
    Are you satisfied with the GYE112C load cell ?

      Are you sure? yes | no

    counter.culture wrote 04/22/2015 at 13:29 point

    my suggestion for the next experiment => mu-metal plates on the outside of the boxes to attenuate the EMF on the poor little critters.  that is one theory on so-called "colony collapse disorder", it would be interesting to see if the colony improved under lower EMF conditions...

      Are you sure? yes | no

    Ken Meyer wrote 04/22/2015 at 14:17 point

    That'd be a really interesting experiment, but I don't think there's any chance I can perform a useful experiment until I can partner with someone with dozens of hives. The only research I've seen suggesting EMF as an irritant only tested 6 hives (half controls) in India, and it's not at all clear to me that this is a reliable finding as it's never been reproduced. I'd want to test 10-100 hives in a randomized trial (where each hive is wired to transmit, but the beekeeper making observations is not aware which hives are exposed). I'd also want to see the experiment run at multiple apiaries over at least 2 years...

    Further, this wireless transmission system isn't really designed for the experiment. Unlike the Indian guy who put cell phones directly into beehives, this system exposes the hive to many orders of magnitude less energy since it transmits omnidirectionally from a few feet away.

    I'm not going to claim that running a cell phone transmitting at full power inside a beehive will have no effect, but I find it extremely unlikely that EMF is a major factor in bee death. Quite simply EMF varies by many orders of magnitude (at least a billion times) from apiaries near cell phone towers to more remote sites shadowed by hills and there are no obvious trends. Certainly if you cook the bees in a microwave oven, they will die, but no researchers have yet confirmed any effect from typical exposures!

    I'm open to correction though, if you've seen peer reviewed research beyond that of S. Sainudeen Sahib in 2011, do shoot me a link!

      Are you sure? yes | no

    vittorio chierici wrote 03/04/2015 at 13:46 point

    I just saw another great project.

    We should work all together on an big unique project to save money and time!

      Are you sure? yes | no

    Ken Meyer wrote 03/04/2015 at 14:27 point

    I strongly agree, and honestly, I think we ARE working together in our own ways. You might notice from the lack of updates that I'm not making much progress just now, and with my little kids, that'll be typical for me for years to come. While I often communicate with other projects, most of what I have to offer is in these rough project notes.

    Most other projects I've seen require 3-10 times more power than what I'm working on, especially those using the Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone Black. Of course, many of them are currently collecting data, and in many respects, energy is cheap (just spend another $100 for a larger solar panel) but I see a lot of value in a system like Apitronics or an even more specialized circuit that cuts the power requirements without limiting data acquisition.

      Are you sure? yes | no

    InFrance wrote 02/11/2015 at 18:20 point


    I subscribe Hackable today  and i gave you a Skull for this project.

    Save the bees will save the humanity!

    Thank's from Paris - France - Europe!

    See U 

      Are you sure? yes | no

    Gurzo wrote 10/05/2014 at 10:13 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:

      Are you sure? yes | no

    Ken Meyer wrote 10/06/2014 at 21:47 point
    That's awesome! It's been a much bigger project than I had originally thought, but hopefully I can show you a path to lower cost scales as well (compared to commercial versions or $160+ postal scales).

      Are you sure? yes | no

    Gurzo wrote 09/26/2014 at 22:46 point
    why do you have placed the sensor in the top of the hive? instead of inside between the honeycombs

      Are you sure? yes | no

    Ken Meyer wrote 09/27/2014 at 01:09 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.

      Are you sure? yes | no

    Gurzo wrote 09/27/2014 at 12:06 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 09/27/2014 at 16:03 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 09/27/2014 at 16:50 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 08/26/2014 at 20:48 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 09/17/2014 at 14:01 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 09/23/2014 at 19:18 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 09/27/2014 at 19:05 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 08/25/2014 at 20:21 point
    Congratulations! You made it!

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    Greg Kennedy wrote 08/21/2014 at 15:54 point
    Your most recent project log video is set to private : (

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    Ken Meyer wrote 08/21/2014 at 17:23 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 08/21/2014 at 08:19 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 08/21/2014 at 14:17 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 08/21/2014 at 17:28 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 08/22/2014 at 13:43 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 08/22/2014 at 14:19 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 09/03/2014 at 11:17 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 07/23/2014 at 05:41 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 07/23/2014 at 11:01 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 07/09/2014 at 20:28 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 07/11/2014 at 18:04 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 07/06/2014 at 13:26 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 07/06/2014 at 13:53 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 07/06/2014 at 08:15 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 07/06/2014 at 13:22 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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    ken.long.jr wrote 03/10/2016 at 02:17 point

    I'm also very interested in collecting and analyzing hive data.  I'm new to this project and trying to identify and integrate the various components.  Do you still recommend the scales you initially identified?   I'm not an engineer so I'm a bit concerned with the programming the components.  Any information you can offer would be much appreciated.  Thanks. 

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