How do beekeepers monitor the health of their colonies? Typically they are doing it the same way that beekeepers have done it for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years: they open and manually inspect each and every colony, one by one. There are more than 600,000 beekeepers in Europe, so that is a lot of inspections.
As well as being labour intensive, this invasive opening of hives is disruptive and potentially harmful to the bees inside. But is there an alternative?
Martin Bencsik thinks so. Martin, a physicist at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, has developed a tool – Swarmonitor – that can detect vibrations from within a bee hive that indicate, several days in advance, signs of swarming fever and possible poor health. The beekeeper can then intervene to manage the colony.
He presented the tool to the EU research workshop held at EFSA a couple of weeks ago and, judging by the excitement and discussion it generated, Swarmonitor could radically change the way beekeepers – big and small –work. After the meeting, Martin explained the project to me. Click on the video above to hear what he had to say. You can also see more on how the tool is installed in a hive here.
Simon Terry is a communications officer at EFSA.