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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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Two much excitement for one day

Turned into an interesting day today with two bits of news.

Getting Sensitive

First of all I was contacted back by Zettlex - a small company in Cambridge who make "non contact" distance sensors. Their systems are very small and light, based on magnetic resonance, and can very accurately measure the distance between the sensor and an 'antenna' device attached to a moving object.

Now, before you go thinking I'm sticking sensors to bumblebees, I'm not! (That's next year's idea!) ☺ 

The plan, actually is to mount a sensor on the wax moth trap door, so that when it is in use (see below), the movement can be detected. 

bumblebee using the wax moth flapI wasn't sure if Zettlex would have been able to supply such a small, single unit, but they have very kindly offered to help me out - so the least I can do is sing their praises! 

Of course, there will be a lot of work still to get the sensor working, hopefully integrated with the iobridge platform so I can get realtime data and alerts out to the internet and beyond. I'm actually really excited about the possibilities, because over and above tracking simple activity data, such as start and end times of the day, I may be able to get data about how the flap is actually used: for example, how long it takes a bumblebee to master its usage. 

Hitting the screen

Even more exciting news came this afternoon with confirmation that some of our footage has made it into the final "Britain in a Day" film. I'm mentioning it here, because although we submitted several hours worth of material we know that the piece that has been selected concerns our bumblebees. It's actually a lovely segment, filled with emotion and despite its short length, a strong storyline and message; which is probably why it succeeded in being picked.

I don't want to give away too much, so that's all I say; but if you are in the UK, the film should be showing on BBC2 on June 2nd 2012. 

Here's some information about the whole "Britain in a day" project:

 

Britain In A Day is a major new project designed to capture a unique snapshot of Britain on one day, and people from all corners of the United Kingdom are invited to take part.
On Saturday November 12th we asked people in Britain to film something that captures the intimacy and singularity of their life and to upload it to a dedicated channel on YouTube. With the support of executive producers Ridley Scott and Academy Award winning Kevin Macdonald, director Morgan Matthews will use the rich trove of material submitted to craft a feature-length documentary film that captures the variety and vibrancy of life in Britain today. 
The result will be broadcast on BBC2 next year in the run up to the Olympics.
The idea is based on Life In A Day, the global, user-generated feature film produced by Ridley Scott’s company Scott Free London and directed by Kevin Macdonald. 80,000 videos were submitted to YouTube by people all over the world, wherever they were and whatever they were doing. The result was a powerful and inspiring portrait of the world on a single day. 

We feel privileged to have been selected and are really looking forward to seeing the whole film. If it turns out anything like "Life in a Day" (the original global version) it will be brilliant!