Who Let the Bees Out? How Beehive Monitoring Can Save the Bees and Secure Our Food Supply

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4Q 2023 | IN-7091

As bee populations dwindle, having significant implications on our global food supply, technology startups are offering Internet of Things (IoT)-based solutions to combat the problem. By inserting wireless sensors that monitor the health of bee colonies, beekeepers are able to monitor the status of their hives and intervene in a timely manner to prevent the collapse of entire colonies.

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Climate change, increased pesticide use, habitat loss, and mite infestations are among some of the leading factors behind the decline of the global bee population by 60% in recent decades. Bees and other pollinators are integral to global food production; without pollinators, we would lose 75% of all food crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that one out every three bites of food eaten in the United States depends on honeybees and other pollinators. Honeybees alone pollinate nearly 80% of all flowering plants, including 130 types of fruits and vegetables. Almond farms in California pay around US$200 per hive to get their crops pollinated to improve crop productivity.

As illustrated by a previous ABI Insight (see “The Internet of Bees: Connected Beehives Creating a Buzz for 2019,” monitoring parameters key to the survival of bees in hives has significant potential in the AgTech market. Since then, the beehive monitoring market has significantly expanded with startups emerging all over the world offering wireless Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to monitor the health of hives to prevent Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). California-based BeeHero has raised US$64 million in funding and currently manages more than 200,000 commercial hives in the United States, whereas Israel-based Beewise manages over 250,000 hives in 120 countries. The growth over the last few years is expected to continue as Sateliot, the first satellite operator to offer IoT connectivity over standard 5G Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), has entered into an agreement with Mexico-based IoT service provider, S4IoT, for remote monitoring of beehives.

Until now, connecting to legacy satellite operators was expensive due to the additional hardware costs. Sateliot uses The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 17 standard for Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN). It allows IoT devices to switch to satellite when a cellular network is not available. By signing standard roaming agreements with the user’s current operators, Sateliot is ensuring that the price for the user is similar to that of normal mobile networks. Allowing farmers in rural areas to connect to Sateliot’s satellite network without increased costs will allow for massive deployments of 5G IoT services, including beehive monitoring.

How Does Beehive Monitoring Work?


Most beehive monitoring systems rely on wireless sensors that non-invasively track real-time conditions in the beehive. The sensors monitor parameters such as the weight of the hive, temperature, humidity, vibrations, and acoustics. The hive sounds can indicate the stress levels and health of the bees, as well as the status of the queen bee. Machine Learning (ML) models can filter out the irrelevant noises. Researchers have found that listening to the frequency at which worker bees “pipe” can indicate the status of the queen bee. If a new queen is emerging, beekeepers can then intervene in a timely manner to prevent the colony from collapsing. Monitoring the weight of the hive can allow the beekeeper to monitor honey production, but it can also indicate if the hive has either been stolen or knocked over by an animal.

In terms of connectivity, some sensors such as those offered by BeeHive, have Bluetooth technology. The Bluetooth sensors in the hive communicate with a cellular gateway. BeeHive’s solution is priced at €250 for the monitoring equipment, alongside a fee of €9 per year for access to the web application.

Ireland-based ApisProtect is partnering with Vodaphone to use its NB-IoT to allow their hive monitoring devices to have longer battery lives, as well as wider coverage. ApisProtect uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to convert raw data into actionable information for beekeepers, such as alerting the user to move a hive that is overheating in the sun to a shaded area. ApisProtect similarly offers a “per hive, per annum” subscription-based model.

How Smart Hives Can Help Secure Global Food Production


Beehive monitoring using IoT technology has seen increased global adoption in the last couple of years and has shown great potential in helping colonies survive, which, in turn, can increase crop yields by 40% to 90%. Sateliot and S4IoT’s recent partnership indicates potential for further growth as their standard IoT connectivity of NTN reduces costs for adopters in rural areas. Remote monitoring helps reduce operating costs, as fewer apiary visits are needed to check the status of the colonies. Depending on the number and geographic spread of apiaries, this can significantly reduce running costs. Furthermore, minimizing human interaction is also an important benefit, as opening a hive can diminish its pollination capacity for up to 3 days afterwards.

In addition to wireless IoT sensors to monitor the conditions inside the hive, other forms of technology such as cameras with AI software can also be used to track insects as they pollinate flowers. Optimal pollination requires the right number of visits by insect pollinators; too many or too few visits can reduce crop productivity. The software’s AI-based object detection capabilities can identify the positions of the pollinators and the flowers they pollinate. By understanding how much a crop has been pollinated, farmers can move hives to areas where there is a pollination deficit. Although this technology has yet to mature, it can be used in conjunction with beehive monitoring to optimize pollination and crop productivity. With the annual global production of food directly dependent on pollination being worth US$500 billion, investment in technology that helps bees survive, and hopefully thrive one day, seems worthwhile.


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