Since 2014 the “Apidology” sector of CREA-AA (Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of Agricultural Economics) based in Bologna, Italy has been coordinating a nationwide effort for environmental monitoring using bees and biodiversity. BeeNet monitors both honey bees as as wild bees and covers the whole territory of the Italian peninsula and it is the largest project of its kind in Europe. In the last two years honey bee network has expanded to include the use of emerging IoT technology such as that of iPollinate. Forty eight  iPollinate systems have been deployed in sixteen various locations throughout the country to gather data from each individual “hi-tech” hive. These data are consolidated to generate a valuation of the hive’s well being.

Each hi-tech hive is equipped with:

Colony activity sensor – although acoustic data can estimate the colony activity based on the volume at specific frequencies produced by the bees, the precise numbers of bees exiting and entering the hive are given by the the bee counter. This sensor is placed at the hive entrance and besides giving precise daily activity profiles of the colony, the differenze between egress and ingress is a powerful metric daily mortality. Any deviations from seasonal physiological values are a cause for concern, particularly in agricultural settings where poisoning by agricultural inputs is of utmost importance.

Hive scale – to measure the weight of the hive which consists of honey, nectar and pollen stores as well as the biological components, bees and brood. Hive weight is then correlated to the environmental setting for the useful resources it offers hone bees.

Temperature sensor – inside the hive where normally brood is found this parameter is an excellent indicator of the brood status. Honey bees regulate the brood temperature constantly and any deviation is a possible sign of problems, either due to development of diseases or loss of queen.

Humidity sensor – as with brood temperature, appropriate hive humidity is essential for healthy development of brood and values beyond physiological range are a sign of anomaly within the hive.

Weather pack – each apiary where hi-tech hives are located is equipped with a meteorological station that measures rainfall, wind speed and direction and ambient temperature. These data are fundamental because bees’ activity is ultimately driven by them, thus putting all the above parameters into a wider context.

All of the above data collected by the various sensors are relayed to the apiary gateway which in turn send it to the cloud so that researchers can access them in real time, record them and study them in relation to all the other agro-enviornmental conditions.

Installation of iPollinate systems at the CREA apiary in Bologna