Students with sideline occupation – 30,000 new inhabitants have moved in at Universitetskajen

Since a few weeks back, there is a connected red Småland beehive on the roof of building Magna in Kalmar. It is now full of life as a colony of some 30,000 bees have moved in. Three students work on the project with the aim to monitor the life in a beehive in a more efficient way.

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Bee farming has been done for many years and the methods have always been the same. The bee farmer must check up on the bees every day, perhaps even several times a day, in order to know whether everything is ok in the community. In their degree project in computer technology, Elias Holmér and Mattias Holmgren have developed a microchip and a machine-learning algorithm to be able to monitor life in the beehive in a more efficient way.

“The microchip will be placed between the frames in the beehive. The hive is connected and the farmer will be able to use an app to check on the condition of the bees”, explains Holmér and Holmgren.

With the help of their machine-learning algorithm, they will be able to filter out car sounds and record data from active bees. Their system has been tested on a Tietoevry beehive.

“The hive is wireless and runs on batteries. The objective is that we should be able to optimise battery life by sorting and only processing relevant data. We hope to increase the runtime from 2 days to 29 days”, says Holmér.

The hive is a unit for which the temperature can be measured both inside and outside the hive, as well as relative humidity, air pressure, air quality, and weight. The project provides important data collection and knowledge about the bee community and on how different conditions affect life in the beehive.

“With this type of solution, bee farmers will be able to discover at an early stage if the bees swarm and leave, whether there is an attack on the colony, or if some disease has entered the hive”, Holmgren explains.

Björck handles the bees on location
However, not all monitoring can be done via link and this is where Elin Björck comes into the picture. She studies her second year in software engineering. She had been glancing at the beehive in the lab and was also thinking that she wanted to take a bee farming course. Thus, when her teacher Fredrik Ahlgren asked her if she wanted to be responsible for the beehive, she seized the opportunity.

“Bees are important, and I really enjoy learning new stuff. By taking care of the beehive, I get a practical element in my studies and an insight into the bees’ lives. It feels exciting to have some sort of power over nature in this way”, says Björck.

Thus, from now on, she will be responsible for taking care of the bees in the bee community of the roof. In order to be able to do this, she has studied literature and also been given practical instructions by Mikael Ekström from Tietoevry, who also provides the bees.

“I have gotten to learn what the bee cycle looks like over the year, How they communicate with each other and what the different roles are in the beehive. During summer, I will go through all the frames and honeycombs every fourteen days. On these occasions, I will also check if a new queen is about to develop”, Björck continues.

First honey this autumn
Placing a beehive on a roof may seem a bit unusual, and the question is how the height and the wind will affect the bees. However, what is clear is that if everything goes according to plan, Björck will harvest the first honey from Linnaeus University’s own beehive this autumn.

“This is somewhat of an experiment, so we will get to know whether the bees like it or not”, Björck concludes.

4 quick questions for Elin Björck

What does it mean that the bees are swarming?
“The bees have their own will and can decide to leave with the old queen to find a new place to live. The beehive community can go from 90,000 bees to 45,000 bees within a short period of time. At first, the bees won’t move far, so a bee farmer may be able to retrieve his swarm”.

How do bees communicate?
“Through bee dance and pheromones, which is an odorant. In this way they can, for instance, communicate the distance to a food source and how good this food source is”.

How much time does it take for a new queen to develop?
“It takes 18–20 days for queen cells to develop”.

Your favourite role among the bees?
“Guard bees that protect the hive from pests”.