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So, in January I had this idea to monitor my beehives electronically (Hive Electronics - Getting into Hive Electronics). Now it is 4 months down the line and here is an update on my findings thus far.

 

Some of the questions I wanted to get answers to were:

  • Plastic vs. Wood frames?
  • Where to house electronics in a hive?
  • How will the bees react to the 3D printed PLA components.

Plastic vs. Wood frames?

Well, this started out quite well. One hive with “all wood” and the other “all plastic” frames. Then I was lucky to catch a small swarm, and I have used some of the spare wood and plastic frames for them. So the swarm hive had “mixed” frames in it.

 

Then during beginning of February something happened to queen in the “all plastic” hive, and I had to decide on whether I wait for them to make their own replacement queen, or to combine the small swarm hive with this queen-less hive. I decided to do the combine. All worked perfectly, and they are all living happily ever-after. Unfortunately, my “all plastic” hive ended up being a “mixed” wood and plastic framed hive after that.

 

The saying “lightning never strikes twice” was not true in my case, so mid-April I also lost my other queen in the “all wood” hive. This time around I decided to let them do their thing. They did not manage to get a replacement queen, so I decided to move a plastic frame with eggs from the mixed hive mentioned earlier to help them out. It took a bit longer than expected, but the late-autumn queen is laying up a storm now (I hope she soon realise that it is winter now).

 

All and all my two hives are doing great at the moment, but the whole plastic vs. wood experiment is now out of the window. Will have to start again in future.

 

How will the bees react to the 3D printed PLA components?

The bees have absolutely no issue with PLA 3D printed components. I have two frames that has 3D printed parts on it, and they bees treat these just like any other frame.

 

Where to house electronics in a hive?

That is still the big question at the moment. So, I have build yet another version of the hive scale and sensors. This version looks like this:

 

It is based on a standard bottom board (without the runners). It is even possible to use a screened bottom board with it. Apart from measuring the weight, I also measure temperature, humidity and acoustics. All the electronics are housed in the base (I do not like the idea of running wires inside the hives).

 

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It measures the weight beautifully. No problem with that.

It is strong and sturdy and I can put hive straps on it without contracting the load sensors - that was a bit of challenge to figure out, but got it working in the end.

Calibrating it was a bit more of a mission - luckily my neigbour is into body building, so I could borrow some of his weights.

 

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The rest of the sensors worked fine during summer and the beginning of autumn. When it became colder, the bees decided to move up higher in the hive, so my temperature measurements are not that accurate anymore. The humidity looks to be okay, but then I do not have data to compare my readings to. Acoustics also still work fine, but with the bees higher up in the hive, the measured dB levels automatically dropped. I expected the acoustic levels to drop, but now I do not know whether this is because the bees are buzzing further away from microphone, or whether it is because there are less bees around to buzz.

 

So, having all the electronics in the base is not the answer :(

 

I have some additional issues to investigate:

 

1. Power:

I have a built in LiPo charger on the PCB that I hook up directly to a Solar Panel (see picture below). At the moment I am using a 600 mAh battery, and that gives me about 30 hours of operation without any charging - that is if I take measurements every 10 minutes. When we had bad weather with little sunshine, the battery level struggled to keep up, and I even lost communications for a day. Not good.

 

There is also a Gateway that collects all the readings from the various hives (at the moment only 1 hive) and uploads this via GPRS into a cloud based database. The Gateway due to the GSM module needs a bigger battery, and the solar panel charges this as well.

 

I am not keen to spend too much on solar panels and big batteries, so I need to figure out how to reduce the power consumption - especially if this is on a remote site.

 

2. How many measurements

The more frequently I measure, the quicker I should be able to see if the hive is being robbed for example. But I end up with a lot of data. Measuring 35 data points every 10 minutes results in 5000+ records every 24 hours. What is valuable to know, and how important is historical measurements?

 

3. Cost (time and money)

At the moment it takes about 2 days to build a scale (soldering pcb's, wood and aluminum work). The electronics, bottom board and batteries brings this up to about $150. (with the wood and aluminum being the most expensive components). I was aiming for well under $100, so this is off-track at the moment.

 

Feedback on the sensors:

The Piezoelectric sensor was not sensitive enough for measuring vibrations. So I tried a Gyro+Accelerator chip. With this I could easily tell when the hive tilted. But the wind gave so many different readings that I could not collect any meaningful data from the vibrations the bees made themselves. I removed this from the design. If the Gyro could be embedded inside the frame, then it might be more useful.

 

The acoustics sensor now does a spectrum analysis. It measures frequencies in “buckets”. So the readings I get, is the average sound level in a specific bucket. The buckets are 75 Hz slots starting at (75 Hz-150 Hz), (150 Hz-225 Hz) ... up to (1352 Hz-1427 Hz). Not sure what to make of the data I am getting in yet, but there seem to be a fair amount of non-bee “noise” in there. Still quite a bit of experimenting to do.

 

All comments, questions and suggestions welcome!

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Regarding the power usage, it depends on what system you are using to get the hive measurements. With the system I am using I am able to 'put the system to sleep' which drops the power used from milliamps to microamps. Others using similar sensors say they can get 12 months or more from 3 AA batteries.

My apiary is at home so I have no issues powering the gateway, but I was anticipating a GPRS enabled system which would need a relatively large solar panel & LiPo

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Regarding the power usage, it depends on what system you are using to get the hive measurements. With the system I am using I am able to 'put the system to sleep' which drops the power used from milliamps to microamps.

I put the remote unit to sleep for approximately 9 minutes, then it wakes up to receive the poll from the Gateway. I can make it sleep for longer, but then I can not use a MESH network anymore because some of the Nodes will still be in sleep mode. This reduces the Apiary size.

 

I also found that the little regulator (my system runs on 3V3) draws as much current as the rest of my system. So with the next prototype I am doing away with the regulator all together.

 

My apiary is at home so I have no issues powering the gateway, but I was anticipating a GPRS enabled system which would need a relatively large solar panel & LiPo

It is not that the GSM/GPRS module is that much less efficient, but if you want to be able to interrogate at any time, then you can not put it into sleep mode. It can also draw up to 3A when transmitting at full blast which means that either your power supply must be able to deliver that, or the battery should. This is where the LiPo batteries shine. I am using a 1600mA LiPo that costed me $10 but it can deliver 20C.

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I put the remote unit to sleep for approximately 9 minutes, then it wakes up to receive the poll from the Gateway. I can make it sleep for longer, but then I can not use a MESH network anymore because some of the Nodes will still be in sleep mode. This reduces the Apiary size.

I'm waaaay behind you but playing in the same sandpit.

 

My network structure might be a little less power hungry than yours. My remote nodes (there are several) will sleep 99% of the time. The only wake for long enough to take a measurement then transmit a packet to the gateway. If the packet fails they wait a random number of milliseconds (deconflict with other nodes) before trying again. Then they go back to sleep.

 

The gateway is the only node that spends any significant time powered up doing nothing. If I can get the radio interrupt working properly I might even be able to put that into power saving mode.

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My network structure might be a little less power hungry than yours. My remote nodes (there are several) will sleep 99% of the time. The only wake for long enough to take a measurement then transmit a packet to the gateway. If the packet fails they wait a random number of milliseconds (deconflict with other nodes) before trying again. Then they go back to sleep.

Everybody welcome in this sandpit - no matter whether you are ahead or behind!

 

I have on other projects followed similar approaches to yours, and that resulted in significantly better battery life. I guess my problem at this stage, is what is necessary?

 

For example, would it be sufficient to take snap-shot-measurements once every hour? Or should it be every 10 minutes?

The potential impact (my reasoning) is that if a cow bumped one of my hives over, or the weight is suddenly dropping by ?? kg, then I can drive out to the site straight away and take corrective action. Would 1 hour delay be too much?

 

Will the Gateway unit, send you an alarm message, or will a server-side application do the analysis on the uploaded data, and then send you an alarm message?

 

There are so many options, and I am with @Jimboeri with this - the challenge is the fact that it keeps on changing.

 

Looks like we are all doing similar things. I'm happy to share my code & designs if anyone is interested. The only challenge is it's ongoing development so it all keeps changing.......

I am all for working together!

 

But there are multiple sides to this beast. We need:

  • Hardware/Electronics: These are the specific on-site mechanisms such as Scales, Sensors, Gateways. To be honest, the electronics is not the biggest problem - it is the associated mechanics. I can build all my sensors with specific PCB's for next to nothing. But then you add water-proof enclosures, connectors and how to mount the load-sensors. Suddenly these things becomes your biggest headache. My aim with the electronics, is to eventually open-source it. So I am using off-the shelf modules for the ISM Radios and GSM. Stuff anyone can buy on Trademe/Aliexpress/DX.
     
  • Software: There are at least two main parts, the embedded SW and the Service SW:
    • Embedded SW: The code that run on the little microprocessors.
       
    • Server side SW:
      • Upload API: I have created an API that allows me to upload data from the remote apiary using HTTP. So with this, my measurements ends up in a cloud based database.
      • User API: Now here it could be another API that allows anyone to extract data from the database and display it on their own web sites.
         
      • Service side Application: Or this could be an online Application/Mobile application that uses the User API to put all the measurements into graphs, tables, widgets, etc.

Not sure how much work you guys have put into the Server Side of things, so since it is early days, I happy to share or change my Upload API so that you can use it as well.

 

I think open-sourcing the HW will keep it affordable for all. But, then there is also a side of me that thinks the research we all put into this might be valuable in the longer run - I for one have not completely made up my mind whether my sensors should sit inside a frame, in the base or part of the box. I am not keen on running wires, but then that might just be me, and maybe this is the only way forward. I am learning a lot from the experiments I do.

 

So, I am open for ideas on what we could start to work on together, and to what extend?

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I've just seen the new prototype floor from ecrotech, they have a place for electronics, load-cells and even an entrance designed to take counters etc

Sounds interesting. Wonder what the cost will be on those, and whether we would be able to house our own electronics in it?

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Sounds interesting. Wonder what the cost will be on those, and whether we would be able to house our own electronics in it?

That was the idea I believe. I should have grabbed a few pics.

Removable feet either 4 or 2 long 'runners' or just screw to pallet

about 100x200x50 area for electronics/loggers/gps

drop in closure/entrance reducer or hive doctor type entrance

ventilated with monitoring trays or drop in board to have 'solid' base

...

 

all in all quite well designed for a prototype

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm really interested in hive acoustics, I used to use a stethoscope to monitor my hives strength don't do that so much any more but I think with a bit of research you can gain quite a bit of info from it. for me the most valuable information would be a photo or image of the bottom frames in the bottom brood box (spring), for me this is how I control my swarming, currently its hands and knees with a torch looking though the mesh, I tried a inspection camera so I can just point under the hive but lighting is not sufficient it would need more work in that area but if I could get a couple of portable instruments like that to walk around we would do our swarm control at a site in minutes with out even opening a hive, except the ones that need to. Any ideas what I can use for this would be most welcome.

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  • 1 month later...
What about thermal imaging for hive strength Don't miss these photos! - Honey Bee Suite

Very interesting stuff, but not cheap. I've got Champagne ideas but Sprite pockets :)

 

I am hoping that I will be able to kit my whole apiary out with scales, sensors and a GSM gateway for the price less than one of these FLIR ONE Thermal Imagers. But then with that said, I have seen some guys using much cheaper components and coming up with reasonable results. Have a look at this: One pixel thermal imaging camera with Mathematica and Arduino - Online Technical Discussion Groups—Wolfram Community

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  • 1 month later...

I've got a pair of nodeMCU and a lm355 and am logging the house temp for now. Just waiting for the loadcells an a set of DS18B20 to arrive from China.

As a side note I've designed a GPS tracker based around a sim808 and the nodeMcu that will cost about $75 with battery on a proto board. Again waiting for parts.

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Can tech keep the world's bees buzzing? - BBC News

I really hope this is not the future of beekeeping.

The trick is to find the balance where technology really helps the bees and beekeeper. So I do not tech can keep the bees buzzing, but it can tell you when they are not buzzing like they should be...

 

As a side note I've designed a GPS tracker based around a sim808 and the nodeMcu that will cost about $75 with battery on a proto board. Again waiting for parts.

I would be keen to hear how the SIM808's work for you. I've got a couple SIM800L's out in the field.

How do you pull your measurements back? SMS or HTTP?

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The trick is to find the balance where technology really helps the bees and beekeeper. So I do not tech can keep the bees buzzing, but it can tell you when they are not buzzing like they should be...

 

 

I would be keen to hear how the SIM808's work for you. I've got a couple SIM800L's out in the field.

How do you pull your measurements back? SMS or HTTP?

The sms808's arnt here yet, but I'll 2g/mqtt the data back I think. maybe a sms alert on the shock sensor being activated, this will take the mcu out of deep-sleep and start the GPS and tracking as well. I was thinking of weights/temp as well on the same hives, but then it becomes a lot easier to see what hives have the GPS trackers in.

The esp8266/nodeMCU seem ince to work with, plenty of i/o pins and a nice small form factor (the proto board with the lm355 on is 1/3 the size of the whole nodeMcu), and at us$3 each you cant really go wrong

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I'm really interested in hive acoustics, I used to use a stethoscope to monitor my hives strength don't do that so much any more but I think with a bit of research you can gain quite a bit of info from it. for me the most valuable information would be a photo or image of the bottom frames in the bottom brood box (spring), for me this is how I control my swarming, currently its hands and knees with a torch looking though the mesh, I tried a inspection camera so I can just point under the hive but lighting is not sufficient it would need more work in that area but if I could get a couple of portable instruments like that to walk around we would do our swarm control at a site in minutes with out even opening a hive, except the ones that need to. Any ideas what I can use for this would be most welcome.

2M Android Waterproof Inspection Borescope Camera

Borescope with 1M Flexible Shaft DT1-VB001R

 

Everybody welcome in this sandpit - no matter whether you are ahead or behind!

Well Ive got a battery and some wire:)

But I have been thinking.

If I was considering going down this track Id have each hive sitting on a scale pad that was in no way connected to the hive.

This means that the scales and electronics would never be subjected to the abuse that a normal base gets over the course of it's life.

Imaging strapping down a set of scales in a base.

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Imaging strapping down a set of scales in a base.

It took me 4 prototypes to come up with a contraption that allow the hive to be strapped down without affecting the load sensors. The mechanics are the most difficult to solve.

My problem now is that the load sensors that I bought show some rusting so they will have a limited life time.

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It took me 4 prototypes to come up with a contraption that allow the hive to be strapped down without affecting the load sensors. The mechanics are the most difficult to solve.

My problem now is that the load sensors that I bought show some rusting so they will have a limited life time.

There are various products on the market that can be sprayed on to protect from the weather.

Soft seal and Heavy Lanoline are two that come to mind

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well the test GPS module arrived today:

Warm start fix within 2 seconds, first fix was about 3 min on the workdesk

 

Sats HDOP Latitude Longitude Fix Date Time Date Alt Course Speed Card Distance Course Card Chars Sentences Checksum

(deg) (deg) Age Age (m) --- from GPS ---- ---- to London ---- RX RX Fail

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

**** **** ********* ********** **** ********** ******** **** ****** ****** ***** *** ******* ****** *** 42 0 0

6 171 -37.992805175.196472 255 10/11/2016 09:22:12 274 35.90 0.00 1.19 N 18473 347.82 NNW 603 2 1

6 171 -37.992809175.196472 371 10/11/2016 09:22:13 383 36.10 0.00 1.33 N 18473 347.82 NNW 1095 4 2

6 171 -37.992813175.196472 376 10/11/2016 09:22:14 388 36.10 0.00 1.59 N 18473 347.82 NNW 1580 6 2

6 171 -37.992817175.196472 382 10/11/2016 09:22:15 393 35.40 0.00 0.94 N 18473 347.82 NNW 2065 8 2

6 171 -37.992817175.196472 385 10/11/2016 09:22:16 397 35.40 0.00 0.46 N 18473 347.82 NNW 2550 10 2

[GALLERY=media, 899]GPS tracker prototype v0.1 by Charles posted Oct 11, 2016 at 22:41[/GALLERY]

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