Process and Control Today | Outdoor enclosures help protect bees with housing for hive monitoring device

Endangered in Britain, the preservation of bees is vital. Balancing the right temperature and humidity inside the hive is very important, so monitoring these conditions is important to understanding how to protect our bees. An engineer with a passion for beekeeping has turned his attention to developing an electronic sensor that is durable enough to survive the winters of northern Scotland. He returned to Spelsberg to provide casings that would ensure long-term, reliable monitoring.

The pollination of trees, plants, and crops necessary to preserve our environment and food supply, bees are important to the global ecology. Since the 1970s, the bee population in the UK has been declining, and to address the potential for environmental disaster, initiatives such as the Department for Food, Environment, and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) Healthy Bees Plan 2030 have been launched.

Measures to reverse bee decline have also received commercial and agricultural support, and the area under insect-pollinated crops has increased by more than a third since 1989 (2). As well as caring for insects in their own right, beekeepers have an interest in the health of hives for honey production, especially when scaled to a commercial level.

Ensuring the increase of the bee population requires optimal conditions inside the hive, including temperature and humidity. If a hive is too cold, the bees can die, which can result in the loss of the entire hive if the queen is defeated. Meanwhile, humidity can cause condensation, which not only causes fungus and rot, but cold water droplets can also kill bees.

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Near Ellon in Aberdeenshire, many hives are being looked after by bee conservationist, Rae Younger. North Scotland suffers from shorter summers than most of Britain, giving them less time to produce the honey they rely on for energy during the long, cold winters. In this climate hive health is more important than ever.

Rae developed a monitoring device that provides round-the-clock notifications on hive health. The device includes electronic sensors and a microprocessor so, like the hives it monitors, the device needs protection against the harsh Scottish winters and defense against curious wildlife.

“I used to use Spelsberg enclosures for my day job in the Oil and Gas industry and was very impressed,” Rae said. “They are strong enough to withstand the weather and guard against impacts, while being light weight and easy to install. In addition, the company is able to offer customization and engineering support, making them the best amount.”

With five hives and a monitoring device for each, Rae used a Spelsberg TG enclosure, which provides IP67 protection against rain and snow, as well as IK08 impact resistance. The compact enclosure, which measures 122mm by 82mm, houses temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors. A microprocessor commands a signal, every 15 minutes, that sends through LoRa, a long range, low power radio modulation technique, with a separate antenna. Back at base, about a mile away, the LoRa signal is received, providing 24/7 remote monitoring. If necessary, LoRa can transmit up to 10 miles. The unit is also powered by four, 8650 lithium ion rechargeable batteries.

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Like many beekeepers facing colder climates, Rae uses a polystyrene-based hive, rather than the traditional wooden design. If the monitoring device signals that the temperature has dropped, the vents can be closed and, if necessary, insulation can be added to the hive to maintain the heat. Meanwhile, if the humidity increases, the holes can be opened or replaced with permeable alternatives to allow the elimination of moisture.

“The enclosures are also quick and easy to install, with a clever, quarter-turn screw that enables quick access and closure of the cover,” says Rae, who installed a tin- well cover to enable the visibility of the status LED.

Armed with CAD drawings, which can be downloaded from Spelsberg’s website, Rae designed and installed his own custom bracket to seat the device’s sensors, which fit just inside the enclosure’s internal mounts. . While the initial hive monitoring device prototypes are undergoing field validation, Spelsberg’s in-house CNC customization engineers are available to scale up production as needed.

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“There are already monitoring devices, but they’re mostly powered by solar energy,” Rae said. “This can add significant size and cost, compared to the battery option, which runs for nine months before needing a recharge. Some devices also ship via SIM card, but this adds to ongoing costs compared to using LoRa.

Since home theft is a growing issue, Rae also puts a GPS transmitter in each device, meaning the location of each hive can be tracked where it is.

“Monitoring devices help ensure that hives and their populations stay healthy, all year round. Spelsberg’s enclosures provide the essential protection to enable the device to work, regardless of the conditions, no problem.”

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