pretty bee header

We created the World's first tweeting bumblebees, and now we've won the Internet of Things Award (Environmental) 2012! Thank you to our readers for your votes!

Introduction

Our Bumblebee nesting project started in 2011 as a bit of conservation to help the declining bumblebee population by encouraging one (or more) to nest in boxes in our garden. We discovered it's not easy, and our project quickly evolved into an ongoing and intimate study of these amazing creatures, which we are sharing here for the benefit of all. 

Amongst our unexpected successes are: 

  • A short clip in the film "Britain in a Day" by Ridley Scott (Broadcast by the BBC in 2012)
  • Featured in Wired Magazine for creating the World's first tweeting bumblebees
  • Winner of the Internet of Things award 2012 - Environmental Category
  • Oldest recorded age we can find of a worker Bufftailed Bumblebee - at 103 days

We've discovered, observed and collected a sizeable amount of real-world data, still being analysed and written up (Overview here). Additionally,

  • We've sourced several live colonies from commercial providers and have been looking after numerous disabled bees indoors.
  • We've learnt to recognise individual bees, spot specific/individual behaviour patterns
  • We measured efficiency and can predict some of their behaviour triggers. 
  • We have some CCTV cameras pointing at the nestboxes and inside
  • You can also follow BeeBoxALula on twitter where our bumblebees tweet live for themselves!

Insights

We're also using tech to monitor the lives of our bumblebees - visual, audio, temperature, sunlight, weather. We can see how the environment impacts their behaviour and understand, capture and share the marvels of their secret lives.

As a species under great threat, we've brought the critical study of Bumblebees into the Multimedia age and revealed intriguing and new insights based on direct observation.

You might want to start with our project summary or project motivation.

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Here comes the Sun (and the rain; and the humidity)

I introduced a few technical enhancements to the garden today also. 

The first of these was the new wireless weather sensor system. There are many such systems on the market ranging from £50 to over £500 depending the features and level of "remoteness" you need. The really expensive ones are designed to be used at long distances (e.g. for professional meteorology) rather than in a garden. 

I opted for a reasonably-priced touchscreen system from eBay. It was under £100 but offers all the main features for a home system - and most importantly, is simple to use and program thanks to the touchscreen interface. It has a PC interface and software that allows you to download and plot historical data from the main control unit. All in all, it seems good value for money. 

The pole comes with metal straps for fixing to a fence post, but they were too short to go round my post. So, I drilled the top of the post and mounted the sensor that way.

weather sensor mounted in garden

The purpose of the weather station is to add to our overall awareness and data set so we can correlate with bee behaviour. It will be handy in the first instance just to be able to correlate temperature with activity (if indeed there is a correlation) but also compare other factors, such as impending rain or storm and see how well the bees are able to sense and predict it. (At this stage, I think they can rather well.)

Also, the small LCD thermometers I also ordered from eBay finally arrived the other day too; so the other achievement today was to install that in the front nestbox. It has a metre long wire which runs into the box and the readout (which is permanently on) can just be placed anywhere in the vicinity. Simple, but effective.

Thermometer in front nestboxThe final bit of tech I am testing is the wireless infra-red camera (also an eBay scoop!). I've nothing to report on that yet as I have to test it over the course of several nights in various locations.