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Tracking Honey Bees With Big Data


Honeybees.

Grand Valley State University researchers are tracking the activities of bee colonies across the U.S., to try to determine the causes and extent of the nationwide decline in the honeybee population.

Credit: Anne Marie Fauvel/Grand Valley State University

Researchers at Grand Valley State University are using technology to study the nationwide decline of the honeybee population.

Professors and beekeepers Anne Marie Fauvel and Jonathan Engelsma are tracking the activity of bee colonies across the U.S. by measuring the weight of individual beehives. Hives are placed on scales that send data to a smartphone app, which can then be stored on the cloud.

"Basically, it's a platform that lets us monitor 24x7 the colony," Engelsma says. "If it's gaining weight during a period of the year when there's pollen and nectar sources, we'd expect the weight to be going up, or at least changing regularly."

The scales also can detect when groups of bees are leaving the hive, signaling a larger problem.

Fauvel plans to expand her research into bee nutrition by monitoring how much pollen is being brought back to the hives.

By asking state beekeepers to collect data on their hives' pollen intake, Fauvel can map out the distribution of pollen in Michigan; as part of the Bee Informed Partnership, there are 160 scales tracking honeybee health, but Engelsma wants to drastically increase participation.

From Michigan Radio
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