Bee Talk, Health Monitored by Technology-based Science

The declining honey bee population may soon be getting some help.  A researcher has developed an ingenious way to uncover the health problems of honey bees by using technology to monitor their communication with one another.


Technology tracks ‘bee talk’ to help improve honey bee health

Simon Fraser University graduate student Oldooz Pooyanfar is monitoring what more than 20,000 honeybees housed in hives in a Cloverdale field are “saying” to each other — looking for clues about their health.

Pooyanfar’s technology is gleaning communication details from sound within the hives with her beehive monitoring system — technology she developed at SFU. She says improving knowledge about honey bee activity is critical, given a 30 per cent decline in the honeybee population over the past decade in North America. Research into the causes of what is referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder continues. The presence of fewer bees affects both crop pollination and the environment.

Pooyanfar’s monitoring platform is placed along the wall of the hive and fitted with tiny sensors containing microphones (and eventually, accelometers) that monitor sound and vibration. Temperature and humidity are also recorded. Her system enables data collection on sound within the hives and also tracks any abnormalities to which beekeepers can immediately respond…

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“With this monitoring system, we are collecting data in real time on what the bees are ‘saying’ about foraging, or if they’re swarming, or if the queen bee is present — right now we are collecting as much data as possible that will pinpoint what they are actually doing.”  -Oldooz Pooyanfar

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Biologists are working to better understand Colony Collapse Disorder given the value of honey bees to the economy and the environment. Monitoring bee activity and improving monitoring systems may help to address the issue.