Monitoring devices for bee hives

Since bees are important to the ecosystem and are under a lot of stress right now i thought it would be good to offer some simple monitoring equipment to local bee keepers to they can track the performance of their hives. I have looked at commercial offering and they used senors include

  • temperature, pressure, humidity (BME280)
  • hive weight (load cells HX711 AD Module)
  • bee activity ( Piezoelectric ceramic vibration sensors, microphones KY-037)

There are still some open questions about things like batteries, and if it can be solar powered.

The current plan is to use a lorawan solution for data transmission. GSM and wifi (2.4GHz) bands seem to have the ability to cause issues with the bees navigation so i would likely try to avoid these they are also very battery hungry. I am currently having issues getting a cheap antenna which can talk to thingnetwork ( lorawan gateway.

I also think the data collection is only the start since being able to compare hive performance across multiple hives across frome might shed light upon if a hive is doing well relative to peers and be able to look at weather patterns that affect the bees. It would be interesting to also see if bees do better in different areas of frome and then suggest to the council about planting bee gardens to provide habitat.

How you can help, well im glad you asked! General ideas and suggestions are welcome.

  • What is the best microprocessor to use? ESP8299, arduino nano other? battery vs. functionality
  • How to make this weather proof?
  • Is it possible to 3d print a housing for the modules?
  • What data should be recorded?
  • How to make it solar powered? How can this be done and done cheaply?
  • Would it be possible to alert a bee keeper that a hive needs inspecting if certain conditions occur.
  • What is the best way to display data to the bee keeper. Should the bee keepers data be shared publicly (hive location)?
  • How to use trilateral to determine location of a hive using lora alone?
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Good project idea, and good questions! We should probably get a solar panel phone charger type thing, to help experiment. A solar-powered network-accessible environmental monitor could be useful in several ways. Maybe a phone battery booster pack and a solar panel charger would be a good combination. And then a question of choosing a low power microcontroller with appropriate networking capability. We could usefully do some experiments with non-wifi networking. (Is bluetooth a possibility, for interrogation by smartphone?)

I have seen some projects using a separate chip as a charge controller between the solar panels and the batteries. I think that is the main thing that would be needed. I have seen that some ESP8266 chips come with support for lipo batteries so its really just having a way to charge them. It would just be about working out what components are needed.

Bluetooth i think could be used but its on about the same band as wifi (2.4GHz). It would mainly need to have a switch on the device so it can be manually turned on/off so it doesn’t drain the battery/ disturb the bees.

I think in general with the topic of sensors and micro controllers there are various topics where learning in each can be reused for other projects. My thinking is they are

  • sensors (temp, distance, …)
  • communication (wifi, bluetooth, lora, rf433 wired …)
  • microcontrollers (arduino, esp, raspi …)
  • batteries (lipo, nicad, phone power banks)
  • data presentation (thingspeak, the things network (ttn), grafana)

i don’t know if we have a wiki or if there is a way to add one so these topics can be fleshed out.

Good thinking. We can promote any given head post into a wiki post, so anyone can edit. (I think we’ve done that just twice.) So, I’d say go ahead and make a suitable Resources post, and I’ll nudge it into wikihood.

(It might be good to work through a power budget, see what kind of match or mismatch there is between the power banks we could buy or build and the microcontrollers we might like to use. Including the power needed for the network pings.)