Bee Monitoring: Bees in the Extremes

From the back to back hottest days in Australia’s history, to the frigid deep cold of Ontario Canada. Eyesonhives Bee Monitor is tracking bees in the extremes! We explore an overview of the bees activity, and performance of the devices.

What happened to the bees during Australia’s hottest day?

December 18th and 19th 2019 were the hottest average days on record across the nation. On December 19th, the national average daytime temperature was a brutal 41.9 C. This beat the previous record, yep, set the day before.

Eyesonhives is being used by researchers Aimee McKinnon and Martin Steinbauer of the Steinbauer Lab for Insect-Plant Interactions to study bee pollination, in support of sustainable agriculture!

The researchers have placed solar-powered Eyesonhives devices in front of beehives. The layout is similar to the roof of La Trobe University, shown below.

So what happened to the bees?

During the hottest average day in Australia’s history, the bees monitored were busy regulating the temperature of their hives by “bearding” and “fanning”.

Bees “fan” the hive to keep it cool

Bees “fan” the hive by evaporating water which cools the air. They angle the flap of their wings to send this cooler air as a nice breeze through the hive. Much the same way that us humans use evaporative air conditioning (except for the wing flapping!).

Check out this video showing the bees fanning the entrance of the hive:

Notice the wing movements of the bees fanning their hive. The bee monitor does!

Bees “beard” the hive, because beards are cool!

Bees are said to “beard” on their hive when it is hot, by standing outside of it. The fewer warm bodies inside the hive, the easier it is to keep the hive cool.

Check out this video showing lots of bees just sitting around out front.

Perhaps this hive has more stubble than a true beard!

How did the Eyesonhives Bee Monitor handle this extreme hot weather?

Eyesonhives is designed to be robust and reliable for in-field computer vision. The case is a glossy white on the outside to reduce the heat absorption. A 3D printed structure holds the electronics in place inside.

Eyesonhives bee monitor with Eyesonhives logo on a wooden table
The Eyesonhives Bee Monitor tracks bee flight activity

Still, the CPU works hard (and gets hot) running the Eyesonhives Algorithm to track bee activity.

With the ambient conditions so hot, the CPU reached a fairly extreme 82C peak temperature.

The electronics are fine though, and continue to monitor the researchers’ hives.

Eyesonhives bee monitor CPU temperature graph over a 24 hour period
That’s a toasty bee monitor

What happened to the bees during Ontario’s deep cold?

Bees in the extreme hot weather have to do things a little differently. When it’s -5F (-20C) outside, a different approach is also taken.

In fact, when it’s below around 50F (10C) we don’t see baby bee orientation. When it’s below 32F (0C), the bees, like you or I, prefer to stay inside.

During Ontario’s deep cold, the bees are chilling

The bees actually form a winter cluster inside the hive. Bees can completely slow down their metabolism. Instead of living for around 6 weeks, bees can live many months.

The bees buzz occasionally to keep themselves warm. The bees convert stored energy in honey sugars into heat, by buzzing their wings. Just like how working out gets us warm and makes us hungry.

In the winter the cluster of bees moves from the brood nest to the honeycomb. The heat of the bee cluster keeps some of their honey un-frozen. The bees can continue to eat!

The bee cluster must carefully move through the hive to not run out of warmth or honey. Beekeepers must be careful to leave enough honey for the bees.

Bee monitoring in a snowstorm

So what’s the story with the winter hive activity we see on the Eyesonhives bee monitor? What kind of bee activity happens at approximately -12F (-24C)?!

Eyesonhives Bee Monitor Activity Graph showing a temperature of -12F
BPS at -12F? Uh, bee monitor, I need a video of this mysterious hive activity.

None! This detected activity is actually the movement snowflakes. The bee-like size of the snowflakes tricked the bee monitor! The bee monitor’s video highlight reel helps clarify:

SPS – Snowflakes per second rather than bees!

Beehive insulation in extreme weather

Our long term customer and supporter, beekeeper Richard Parsons has monitored his bees in Parsons Apiary with Eyesonhives since mid 2016.

You can see just how much snow his apiary receives in the picture below. Richard’s ingenious combination of hay-bales and tarps give his bees the chance they need to make it through the harsh winter!

Eyesonhives bee monitor in a snowy apiary with hay-bales and tarps protecting beehives
Have you ever seen a cooler place for bees?
Temperature gauge showing -34C and a "feels like" value of -47.5C
Forecast is for a sunny day, but it will feel like -47C!

How did the Eyesonhives Bee Monitor handle this extreme cold weather?

Surprisingly enough, the design of Eyesonhives is able to weather the extreme cold quite well too.

With ambient temperatures so low, the CPU gets freezing cold. More importantly, thanks to the innovative case design and Nick’s craftsmanship, the electronics remain effective. The tubular case ensures little to no condensation drips onto the electronics inside the device!

Eyesonhives bee monitor temperature graph showing -1C CPU temperature
Few things are cooler than this Eyesonhives Bee Monitor

Bee Merry and Happy Holidays!

The whole team here at Eyesonhives want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our customers and supporters around the world.

We wish you a happy holiday and a wonderful 2020!

Two Eyesonhives bee monitor devices covered in snow

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