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Source: YouTube screencap

It’s been a troubling decade for bee populations. According to author Elizabeth Grossman, beekeepers in both the U.S. and Europe have reported “annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher,” a number that has steadily increased since 2013.

Worker bees attending their queen. (Photo Credit: Todd Huffman / Flickr)

Worker bees attending their queen. (Photo Credit: Todd Huffman / Flickr)

The problem comes in the form of Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, in which the majority of a hive’s workers disappear. While the colony isn’t dead, drones cannot be replaced quickly enough to keep the family stable. Organizations like the USDA have pledged millions in an attempt to thwart the problem from becoming more severe.

Speaking with Planet Experts, electronics engineer Roger Lewis offered his own take on why bee populations are on the brink of decline.

“The facts… seem to indicate not only bees, but our entire global food chain is poisoned by chemicals such as glyphosate,” he explained in an interview. “The very nature of a pesticide is to kill insects, so no surprise if crops drenched in poisonous pesticides end up killing bees… I’m also aware of more than 12 other attack vectors such as mites, bacteria, fungi and herbicides that adversely affect bee health.”

Lewis believes that if bee populations continue to fall, the crops they pollinate will likely follow suit, potentially affecting food supplies for humans. He’s now using his engineering background to provide an innovative new way for the insects to live and thrive.

“I’ve always been driven to look at the world from an engineering perspective,” he mentioned. “Just over a year ago, I realized there was a huge wave of public interest in honeybees arising from the multitude of reports on the large number of sub-lethal attack vectors [that] bees face. I have also been following the industry moves with respect to the Internet of Things, and realized that this technology could be leveraged in order to provide a cost-effective means of remotely monitoring and managing beehives.”

Alongside business partner Fraser Lindsley, Lewis co-founded BuzzCloud, which according to its website is, “an ethical technology company intended to help with improving the wellbeing of bee colonies.” Together, the two developed what they call the iBuzzHive, an artificial habitat that offers a safe and balanced working environment for the world’s “busy bees.”

An iBuzzHive hanging from a tree. (Photo: YouTube screencap)

An iBuzzHive hanging from a tree. (Photo: YouTube screencap)

“We sat down and discussed what might be needed to design a beehive and manufacture it using a waste stream and recycled cardboard,” he told Planet Experts. “Fast forward 12 months and we now have working prototype hives made out of 3D printed wood.”

Lewis says the hives they build are fully insulated and contain no chemicals, relying primarily on organic materials to create protective environments. The team also offers the HappyHive App, a mobile function designed to monitor a colony’s general health. In an age where anything can be done via smartphone, beekeeping is no exception.

buzz3

Using BuzzCloud’s HappyHive App

“The hive delivers its sensor information and video feeds to our Cloud server,” Lewis explained. “The HappyHive App then connects to the Cloud server and pulls down whatever information the user might wish to see. That may be a graph of the brood nest temperature over the last year, or the relative humidity in the hive right now… We’ve changed the model from traditional beekeeping to a new approach where the hive tells the keeper if there is a problem.”

Checking out the HappyHive App on a desktop.

Checking out the HappyHive App on a desktop.

Still in the early stages, the team is turning to crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to secure initial capital. The campaign will go live once prices and rewards have been finalized. The company is also enhancing its presence on social media, and offering services to corporations like supermarkets, hotel chains, and others that might be interested in taking advantage of its lower prices.

“We take the sting out of beekeeping,” Lewis concluded triumphantly.

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