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Open Source Beehives Designed To Help Save Honeybee Colonies 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-bees dept.
Lemeowski writes "Honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate, with a third of U.S. honeybees vanishing last year. Since bees pollinate many fruits and vegetables, the disappearance of honeybees could cause the United States to lose $15 billion worth of crops, and even change the American diet. The honey bee disappearance is called Colony Collapse Disorder, a serious problem of bees abruptly leaving their hives. A new open source effort called the Open Source Beehives project hopes to help by creating "a mesh network of data-generating honey bee colonies for local, national, and international study of the causes and effects of Colony Collapse Disorder." Collaborators have created two beehive designs that can be downloaded for free and milled using a CNC machine, then filled with sensors to track bee colony health."
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Open Source Beehives Designed To Help Save Honeybee Colonies

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:10PM (#45665935)

    The bees are following the dolphins back to their home planet. They don't like what we're doing here.

    "Thanks for all the pollen."

    -The Bees.

    The salmon are getting pissed too, btw.

  • by turkeydance (1266624) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:11PM (#45665951)
    waiting Oh So long.
  • CNC ?? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:17PM (#45666031)

    Collaborators have created two beehive designs that can be downloaded for free and milled using a CNC machine, then filled with sensors to track bee colony health. []

    No CNC machine. Just some wood and glue. Want sensors? Add them. I'm actually surprised this didn't ask for 3D printers!

    Perhaps, if you want to stop bees from dying, perhaps, just perhaps, ban systemic pesticides. Ban nicotinoids. Don't want to? Well, then don't bitch all all bees are killed off.

  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:19PM (#45666055)

    Smart Citizen reads like an off-the-shelf tool to aid the NSA. No thanks.

  • by timkb4cq (761046) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:19PM (#45666065)
    While commercial beekeepers have been having trouble with their bees, here in Florida we've had more wild bees than ever before. They're building hives in residential areas - in attics, in backyard trees, under manufactured homes, in walls of abandoned homes, etc. Commercial beekeepers don't want these bees because it's more expensive to test them to determine whether they are "Africanized" than to buy new, so they are usually killed by exterminators. If bees were truly as threatened as the headlines claim, wouldn't at least some beekeepers be collecting these hives instead of homeowners having to pay hundreds of dollars to have them killed?
  • by MrL0G1C (867445) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:22PM (#45666091) Journal

    The cause is known but for some reason some countries refuse to take the necessary action - ban the harmful pesticides, fungicides and stop over-working the bees.

    Here in Britain we have a history of allowing poisons - MDF, air pollution, pesticides, Asbestos, trans-fats, BPA, a whole slew of nasty shit that are called food additives, if banning anything causes some company to lose money then it isn't banned. []

    When bathing in a bath of poison, switching to a different bath design is not going to help.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:43PM (#45666297)

      Science says the nicotinoids don't help, but Science also says this is not the only reason for colony collapse. viral and other diseases have probably been introduced.

      Rather than chanting the simplistic 'ban insecticide' maybe what we need is 'do more good science now' because if we ban insecticide and don't fix the viral issue, we're not actually better off.

      How about (for instance) exploring alternative pollenation species? I have been told that many locations have a mix of viable pollenators, insect and otherwise. The assumption "it has to be bees" is possibly faulty.

      I like bees. I like honey. I don't like people chanting slogans.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:26PM (#45666141)

    Basically, the problem is that beekeeping has a monoculture problem - watch the video at the end of this link [] which explains that basically the bees are not treated well and there's not really a diversity of managed bees.

    • by MarkRose (820682) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:35PM (#45666219) Homepage

      I was just about to post that video. A summary from the YouTube video description:

      12 things to prevent colony collapse disorder:

      #1 general approach: use organic practices
      #2 general approach: strengthen bee immune system instead of "attack and kill" what nature uses to remove weak bees
      #3 don't use insecticide (for mite control or any other insect problem) inside of hives - bees are insects!
      #4 allow bees to create their own cell size (typically smaller) - no more pre-made foundation or cells
      #5 genetics based on "survival of the fittest" is superior to genetics resulting from mass production where the weak are medicated
      #6 swarming is the natural way to good genetics
      #7 local bees have adapted to challenges in your area
      #8 stop moving hives
      #9 feed bees honey, not sugar water
      #10 feed bees polyculture blossoms, not monoculture
      #11 stop using insecticides on crops - bees are insects!
      #12 raise hives off the ground

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:50PM (#45666827)

      "Basically, the problem is that beekeeping has a monoculture problem - watch the video at the end of this link which explains that basically the bees are not treated well and there's not really a diversity of managed bees."

      Mod parent up.

      I've been making this monoculture argument for years. It is just as valid as a reason why spread of "Roundup Ready" corn and other crops are a very Bad Idea.

      History is chock-full of examples of why monoculture crops (and bees are a "crop" of sorts) is courting disaster. When you are dependent on a monoculture, any little thing can cause it all to "collapse". The Irish Potato Famine is one good, famous example.

      Diversity is a usually good thing, whether you're talking about human cultures, or food crops.

      (However, when it comes to people it isn't a matter of "forcing" diversity, the way U.S. universities have tried to do. When they do that, what they end up with instead is many clones of the same mix. It doesn't work that way. That isn't diversity at all; it's homogeneity. When you dump the same ingredients into 100 different blenders, you get 100 times the same old soup.)

    • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:13AM (#45671165)

      Dan Rather Reports had a episode on this I watched a few weeks ago. I'm just a layman, but I was under the impression that there was intermingling of different bee colonies whenever bees are trucked in from different parts of the country. They noted this as one of the ways problems with one bee colony can spread faster (like an airport phenomenon).

      Perhaps there is no genetic mixture when different colonies are pollinating the same orchards?

  • by regular_guy (1979018) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:33PM (#45666197)
    At first I was thinking about the design, and while I'm no expert I was immediately concerned about the "bee space" along some of the angled portions inside the hive, though it being a top bar design I'm not certain that's so much an issue. I do wonder about the sensor apparatus, as a key issue would be the ability to monitor sections of the hive much like the work done by Meitalovs et. al ("Automatic microclimate controlled beehive observation system." []) It's been a bugger for me just to put any kind of sensor in a hive without it being covered in propolis, so I'd be interested to see what they plan on doing with the Arduino-based Smart Citizen Kit. But it seems like good intentions on these guys' parts, so kudos to them!
  • by ApplePy (2703131) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:40PM (#45666275)

    It's real simple: monoculture and chemicals -- agricultural chemical warfare.

    Hobby beekeepers are not having this problem in the cities. It's the commercial guys out where the spray'n'pray farms are who are losing bees.

    The only reason that *everyone* doesn't know this yet -- is because the makers of said chemicals (cough Monsanto cough and others) have heavily invested in creating confusion around the issue to hide the fact that it's THEIR PRODUCTS killing the bees.

    There is nothing further to investigate. We don't need any goddamn sensors in the beehives. We don't need to spend any more tax dollars or time researching this. We need to start banning some shit. Now. Yesterday.

  • by Narcocide (102829) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:48PM (#45666339) Homepage

    Obligatory Fight Club reference:

    worker bees can leave
    even drones can fly away
    the queen is their slave

  • by Kohath (38547) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:52PM (#45666379)

    Crop growers need bees. Beekeepers supply bees. When bees die, beekeepers make more. Maybe crop growers pay more and prices increase a little.

    If pesticides on crops are killing bees, crop growers might have to decide whether they want the benefit of the pesticide at the cost of paying more for bees. It's probably not a hard calculation for them.

    This is only "alarming" for drama people.

  • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:01PM (#45666887)
    Seeing a lot of comments espousing the sentiment that we already know the answer, so this won't help. They each claim a different answer. Which one is having the most impact? Is it a combination? Is there something out there we are using that is doing damage we don't yet see? Are any proposed ideas problematic?

    The fact is - more research always helps - so long as it is not taken as an excuse for inaction when known issues are present. Glad to see work is being done to further understand the problem, and I hope the diverse reasons cited in the comments for this article are taken seriously and addressed before it is too late.
  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:05PM (#45666905)
    It is weird we need to gather data to discover that insecticids kills insects, and that bees are insects.
  • by wherrera (235520) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:47PM (#45667159) Journal

    "monsanto treats seeds with systemic insecticide"

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:53PM (#45667185) Journal

    ...thing takes on a much less catastrophic feel when you recognize that honeybees are an INVASIVE SPECIES, and that this continent was perfectly-well vegetated without them.

  • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @11:12PM (#45667637)

    I'll just go down to my shop and use my Northwood dual table CNC router and start milling right away. Oh wait, sold that business a decade ago. Never mind. I know! I'll just go ask my neighbor to borrow their CNC router for a few hours..... Darn. I asked my neighbor to use their CNC router and he called the police. He also looked scared and confused. Maybe I need to ask a beekeeper since obviously the project is aimed at beekeepers who all seem to have CNC machines.

    Sometimes the maker community can be dumber than a bag of hammers. If they want a simple open source beehive then sit down with a few good episodes of The New Yankee Workshop and draw up plans someone can download in PDF and follow using a minimal amount of power and hand tools. Many people have power tools and easy access to cheap woodworking tools at home improvement centers. Hell many people already have basic woodworking tools they bought for home improvement projects or to build that table they always wanted to build but never get around to. Most of the work can be done using hand tools. A router should be the most expensive tool needed. The electronics should be bundled as a kit and come pre assembled ready for installation.

    Its a nice design but not enough people will be interested if the CNC part sits between them and a hive. Some will say then find a shop with a CNC and they will do it for you. You could but I bet that shop will charge you a nice "affordable" hourly machine rate and possibly charge for setup and tooling. If they think the design needs to be so complex a CNC is needed then sell the thing as a knocked down kit like Ikea. Might be a little costly but that is when you realize its a stupid idea and that people have been making beehives out of wood by hand for years.

  • CNC milling ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@g ... om minus painter> on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:14AM (#45668359) Homepage Journal

    That is not how beehives are made. I should know, I grew up as the son of a beekeeper. It is the "CNC milling" part in this initiative that may make it fail. Beekeepers have other things to do, and are often too money-stretched, than to invest in such equipment.

    Thing is, already 35 years ago the first waves of Varroa mite swept over Europe and killed a bazillion beehives all over the continent. And we still don't have any insight into what CCD exactly is, what combination of factors it is caused by, what factors favorize it. We just and only gained some insight into how Varroa spreads. Apis carnica has hard times ahead...

  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by village fool (2046524) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @05:55AM (#45669053)
    Folks, check out and We've been putting sensors in hives for about three years - have about 15 on-line in the southeast US and California. We desperately need DBAs and programmers to help with some of the software tools. I work for a commercial beekeeper in the southeast US. We run about 2000 hives. Last fall we had our first experience with colony collapse. A brief description can bee seen at When you troubleshoot a system that was working, whether it's hardware or software, the first thing you do is undo the last thing you did. In this case it could be the introduction of Neonicitinoids. The EU has banned them for a few years. This is similar legislation in the US: The save the American Pollinators Act of 2013, HR 2692 This is a real problem that is starting to affect the food supply - seen the the price of almonds this year? And yes, we probably have seen this before in the late 1800s- only it was called Disappearing Disease or Dwindling Off. Guess what insecticide was used then?
  • by wcrowe (94389) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:02AM (#45670383)

    The summary states that a third of honeybees vanished last year. While this is correct, it is misleading. Bees are lost every year, usually over the winter. This is normal. From TFA: "Annual losses from the winter of 2006-2011 averaged about 33 percent each year, with a third of these losses attributed to CCD by beekeepers." So, only a third of the losses are attributed to CCD. The other two thirds are normal losses. CCD is a serious problem, but it is not as huge as the summary makes it out to be.

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:18AM (#45670557) Homepage

    I'm covered in bees!

    also []

  • by dragon-file (2241656) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:36AM (#45671411)

    I could be mistaken, but i remember hearing somewhere that scientists discovered the cause of this problem. Something to do with a small worm that was incubating in their brains and as it grew larger and more mature it would literally drive the bee insane. The bee would then fly away from the hive to die as its brain was being reamed out by this parasite.

    I could be entirely mistaken, but that's what I heard.

  • by RichiH (749257) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:20PM (#45681711) Homepage

    Sorry, but it's crap:

    * Uses plywood instead of wood that's naturally resistant to water and insects, line white pine (pinus strobus)
    * That build wastes a huge sheet of wood instead of starting with small pieces. That's a waste
    * Need for CNC
    * Insanely complex build
    * Angled roof, resulting in bad support for the hive
    * No room to extend the hive to harvest honey
    * No immediately obvious way to access the hive from below
    ** No way to check on bees to see if they are all right
    ** No way to deploy stuff that kills varroa destructor

    There's a German non-profit called (literally "bee box"). It's a simply, sturdy design that went through over a decade of improvements and incorporates feedback from professionals. Honey yield is 1/2-1/3 of that what the same hive would get with traditional hives, but they are a lot less work and the bees are in a more natural state. This means that the bees are so relaxed, I can do all my work on the hive without smoke or protective equipment. [] for instructions. Translate into English, the pictures and videos should be largely self-explanatory.

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