Remote Sensing of Honey Bees

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During winter, bees sometimes starve to death due to insufficient supply of honey or from the phenological mismatches between when the bees emerge & the availability of floral resources. To counter this issue, urban beekeepers provide their bees with sugar substitutes, but these substitutes lack the necessary enzymes & nutrients found in their natural food supply. We explored possible solutions to maximize foraging behaviors & ultimately increase the natural food supply of urban honeybees, which can potentially increase pollination & the viability of surrounding biodiversity.

Due to limited time & resources, our experiment will begin in Spring 2022. Since we only have access to one incubator, we plan to set the incubation temperature at 32.5°C. We also plan on recording the age, duration of incubation, & movement in & out of the hive using the RFID system. To monitor the hive temperature, we will be using BroodMinder to log & store live hive temperature & humidity data via Bluetooth.

Remote Sensing of Honey Bees

Introduction to the System of Study

Drones are essential for the longevity of a beehive as their sole purpose is to mate with the queen to produce worker bees. Although, they play an integral part in the beehive, they are not very well understood and research on their flying patterns is scarce; “Available information on drone activity is based mainly on direct observations during a limited period of time and for a restricted time of the day” (Reyes, 2019).



RFID tags are a type of tracking system that uses smart barcodes in order to identify items. RFID stands for “radio frequency identification,” and as such, RFID tags utilize radio frequency technology. These radio waves transmit data from the tag to a reader, which then transmits the information to an RFID computer program. RFID tags are frequently used for merchandise, but they can also be used to track vehicles, pets, etc.

Type of Bee

The type of bees that we worked with are called Drone bees which are the only males found in the hive. Drones perform only one task during their lifetime: mating with new queens. When a drone reaches sexual maturity at about two weeks of age, he begins taking mating flights. The drone bees used were kept in an incubator in Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC) at approximately 32 degrees Celsius.

Tagging Methods

A small amount of store-bought super glue is applied to the RFID sensor and, while holding the bee lightly with a pair of forceps at the upper abdomen (holding down the wings), the RFID tag is placed between the wings at the top of the thorax. The bee is released after a few seconds. In some cases, bees are collected and held manually during the RFID fitting or several bees are brought to the laboratory where placing the bees in the freezer for a short amount of time can be used to decrease bee movement as the bees fall asleep. It will be ideal to tag bees as they hatch in their first day of life as an adult due to their inability to fly. Tagged bees were then placed in hive in Kendeda Building.


The drones started leaving the hive once they were four days old.


This semester, we ran into a lot of technical difficulties regarding the Raspberry Pi and the HOBO Pro v2 Temperature/Humidity Data Logger.

  • The Pi had some unknown issues that prevented it from booting.
  • We have concluded it may be a SD card issue since it is not a power cable issue.

We also unfortunately collected bad data and had a few significant sources of error.

  • Twelve bees were tagged after the first round of tagging at Kendeda.
  • By the next week, only one was still active.
  • The small sample size prevented us from concluding anything significant.
  • To remedy this issue, our team regularly met with the beekeeping team to tag drones regularly. By the end of the semester, we were able to tag over 400 drones.

Looking forward to the future, the questions we want to focus on are:

  • How many times does the drone leave the hive before it dies?
  • If a drone survives a mating trip, how long do they stay in the hive before they are rejected?

Some of our goals for next semester include:

  • Adding the camera and the hive scale to the hive, after slightly modifying the waterproof case to fit the Pi cable
  • Sending our data over to the Machine Learning team so that they can integrate their mite model with the data collected from our camera and their swarm forecasting model with the data collected from the scale
  • Setting up the temperature & humidity sensor from Dr. Cobb to record data on environmental temperature and humidity conditions


The waterproof box containing the RFID equipment.

The RFID equipment inside the waterproof box.

Emma with a bee on her finger!

The RFID gate/sensor at the entrance of the beehive.

Bees with the tags attached.

Using the Aspirator to collect the bees for tagging.

A view of the roof of the Kendeda Building.

Hives located on the roof of the Kendeda Building.
The frame of capped drones.

Team Members

Name Major
Emma Carmical Environmental Engineering
Isabelle D'Amico Environmental Engineering
Silas Ever Computer Science
Hannah Kim Computer Science
Kemuel Russell Biology
Sarah Talwar Neuroscience