Bumblebee Project Motivation
I was recently asked Why is this project important to you? And potentially important to others? so having written a reply I felt it was worthy of actually stating here too, so here's my answer:
Our project started in 2011 as a small means of conservation of the local bumblebee population (by producing new queens) and for personal education. I quickly decided that adding a CCTV monitoring system would greatly improve our enjoyment and ability to study, and in partcular allow me to view our colony while I was regularly working away from home.
Very quickly this proved to be true and before long we were watching the bumblebees with great fascination and I was spending all my spare time scanning the CCTV noting down anything that looked interesting.
Roll forward 6 months and I had collected reams of data and seen first hand how unusual climate patterns were affecting the established documented behaviour of bumblebees. We'd charted and understood the daily triggers for work patterns and realised both how amazing these creatures are and how challenged they are by the environment. Queens that should have been hibernating in November were instead developing winter broods that were destined to immediately fail.
Pollinators - and in many cases bumblebees in particular - are critical to our food supplies, so their widely reported ongoing global decline is of major significance. Studying our bumblebees and their response and adaptation to climate will contribute to the body of knowledge that in due course may well help to reverse their alarming decline.
Roll forward to 2012 and my desire was to consolidate and strenghten our data by collecting more, with greater accuracy; and to raise the profile of the plight of the bumblebee through our work.
On the latter point, we succeeded in being selected for a new film "Britain in a Day" to be shown in June 2012. On the data collection side, the main challenge was the level of manual work collecting data, and without automating more of this, we were unlikely to progress.
Iobridge technology is a big step forward in allowing us to automate and correlate envrionmental and activity data without resorting to manual CCTV analysis. It gives us the freedom not only to view and collect the data from anywhere remotely, but also share it and tweet it - again helping to raise awareness.
I am constantly surprised by the number of people who, for example, think that bumblebees and honey bees are the same thing and have just never had the opportunity to get an insight into the worlds of these amazing creatures. And so the education and awareness side of the project seems increasingly important as farmers, food producers, ecologists, conservationists and scientists alike struggle to understand why our pollinators are so under threat.
Aside from all of that, keeping and observing bumblebees is just pure joy and no effort. They are intelligent, diligent yet somewhat chaotic (hence the name "bumble") animals - a source of great fascination and constant entertainment.
[If you'd like a few surprises as to how remarkable they are, head over to our observations summary page.]