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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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New Nestbox

Our new bumblebee nestbox arrived today. It's been created by George Pilkington of Nurturing Nature, and has specifically been designed to tackle limitations of existing designs, in particular:

 

  • larger in size with improved venting
  • a wax-moth proof entrance system (plastic flap) which the bees (but not the moths) can learn to negotiate
  • a max moth capture system
  • sturdy, sustainable production
  • a red transparent viewing lid to provide viewing without interrupting the bumblebees

 

 The first job this evening was to paint/woodstain the box in order to protect it from the elements, as it comes untreated and will obviously have to survive unattended outside. We are just using Ronseal woodstain. 

It is actually going to take about 3 coats - which have to be finished off in the morning. Then I need to consider how/where to fit a camera inside and a thermometer. Given this box has the red viewing lid, we could probably live without the camera, but I would rather have it available if possible, not just for convenience, but because we can capture activity we might otherwise miss.

We have also decide whether to leave the entrance as is, or adapt it with some tubing into the lawn. The jury is still out on that but 5 metres of tubing arrived today, so we're covered if necessary. ☺