Today, for the first time in my life, I supported a crowd-funding campaign. The object that caught my attention was the BroodMinder, invented by Richard Morris and his team. The device is a temperature and humidity logger designed specifically for bee hives. The slender device, Model 42, slips under the inner cover and rests atop the brood frames.
From there, the device sends wireless updates to your Apple or Android phones and tablets, so you you can monitor hive health without opening your hive in freezing temperatures.
Here’s a description from the BroodMinder website:
Designed to last two years on a single coin cell, the BroodMinder provides continuous service throughout the winter “no matter how endless it may seem” eliminating the need to open the hive.
Accurate to 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit and 3% relative humidity, you will notice the slightest of changes, allowing intervention before it is too late.
The BroodMinder logs and stores measurements once every hour for the entire two years. This means that at any time, you can retrieve and analyze the data, thus allowing for early preparation for next season.
I became very interested in hive temperature and humidity last year. You may recall some of the posts I wrote that highlighted the work of other beekeepers, including Bill Reynolds and Kevin O’Donnell. I learned a lot about what goes on in a winter hive by examining their findings, and it piqued my curiosity.
This unit uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology and Texas Instrument’s latest temperature/humidity chip. It is housed in a 1/4″ bee-resistant wrapper, and records data about the heat and humidity that rises to the top of the hive.
Do I think this is essential beekeeping equipment? No. Do I think it’s totally fascinating? Yes! Right now, the BroodMinder is on Indiegogo and a $40 pledge (plus shipping) will reserve one for you. After the first 500 units are spoken for, the price goes up to $60.
If you decide to spring for the BroodMinder, let me know. I will set up a page here on Honey Bee Suite where we can post results and compare notes. I think it will be fun.
Honey Bee Suite
How many are you buying?
I started with one, but now I’m rethinking it. I want at least one in a Lang, but my top-bar hive overwinters so well I’d like to know what goes on in there, too. Maybe three?
Oh! I just love gadgets! And this one so practical! Thanks for posting!
That’s awesome, the next thing they need is a fan of some type to kick in when the humidity gets to high and a solar cell heater to warm up the hive when needed.
Right, Kevin. You need to get to work.
Thanks for sharing the campaign, Rusty. I signed up as well. Interesting concept.
Excellent. I’ll have to put some thought into our page.
I’m in Rusty. Should be interesting to know what’s going on in the hive all winter without lifting the cover.
Great JoAnne. Good to hear it.
Hi Rusty, I’m trying to get one of the devices to Eberswalde, Germany, as well… Sounds very interesting!
Just a thought…don’t $2 external temp/humid meters on each hive do the same job, with the sensor under the crown board and the meter stuck to the outside of the hive…except of course for the remote viewing bit? Might a remote gadget encourage a teeny bit of ‘winter reluctance’ to inspect the hives for other problems?
You should rig up your method and see how it works. As for winter reluctance to inpect hives? I’m definitely reluctant to open a winter hive because I could cause a problem where none exists. I generally do not open my hives in winter unless I suspect a problem. With more information, I could make a better decision about whether or not to open.
I am new to beekeeping this year and really enjoy your site. I am nervous about going into this winter and have been doing my homework on what to do. I have added a slatted rack based on your recommendation and I think this would be a good thing also. I would be able to keep an eye on the hive (so to speak) and help me react to an issue. I’m not sure I will know exactly what to do but will at least be informed of something happening. It might tell me I have them bundled up too well 🙂
I just signed up for one and will let you know how it goes.
Excellent. I can’t wait so see how they work!
I am very interested in this device. I have an question. Last winter I used a moisture quilt.I feel sure it helped my bees thru the winter. Plus I wrapped them during the freeze we had. Live in east Tennessee. Could you give me your thoughts on using this.
Thank you. Becky
This is new to me too. I’m going to place it between the top brood box and the quilt, but I have no idea how much the quilt will affect the readings. Theoretically, rising moisture should reach the device before the quilt, but then some of that moisture will be absorbed by the quilt. I’m not sure what it all means.
Rusty these have been around for a while. I used wireless tags last season: http://wirelesstag.net/ The problem I found is that the temp and humidity need to be measured THOUGHOUT the hive, not just at the top. I put two sensors in one hive and found a great discrepancy in readings THAT CHANGED DAILY. As the brood cluster moved through the hive, the source of heat and humidity changed so you could not compare one hive to another. My conclusion is that you need a grid of sensors throughout the hive.
Now the next issue: does the electromagnetic transmissions of the sensor emissions impact the bees? We lost the three hives we were monitoring, most likely due to a combination of starvation and varroa mite. But then I got worried that perhaps the radio transmission of the sensors also upset the bees. Most likely not as the levels are very low, but maybe… Bees are small and so the transmissions may have more impact on them. I have no idea.
Regardless, I’ll pass on Broodminder as I already have a system and it really didn’t tell me much last year that was truly useful… I also have had very bad experiences with crowdfunding.
I read a study once where they put cell phones in bee hives for several months to test the electromagnetic theory, but there was no difference between those with phones and those without (except those with phones yakked all night and ordered pizza).
“yakked all night and ordered pizza” – ha, I love it!
I ordered one. I do this in my chicken coop and find it very helpful. What is a good range for temp/humidity for bees?
That is something I’m hoping to learn. Go back up to the post by Bill Reynolds and look at his graphs; that should give you an idea.
I am in as well. Really new to this winter thing. The quilt you are talking about. What is it and where do you place it.
See “How to make a moisture quilt for a Langstroth hive” and read the comments as well.
I’m in for one monitor. As a first-year beek in a cold climate I’m told again and again, “it’s not the (lack of) heat, it the (excess) humidity.”
I’ll be pleasantly surprised if they ship by December but they seem to have their act together so maybe they will.
If this takes off, data-sharing could make for a really interesting view of what’s real and what’s conjecture regarding overwintering. I’d love to get involved in something like that.
I’m actually in the very early stages of designing and building something similar. Right now it’s an arduino hooked up to a DHT22 temp and humidity sensor and sending output to the serial port. Details here: http://www.crowswood.com/bees/?p=7
Hey Donald, I was hoping you’d get one to compare to the system you were creating. Glad to see you are.
I went for a five-pack, even though I only have two hives this year. I figure the strong hive will likely swarm early spring, the weaker one either later or not at all; either way, it won’t take much to deploy 4 out of 5.
The nine-dollar computer on kickstarter ( https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598272670/chip-the-worlds-first-9-computer ) seems like a terrific candidate for the controller for a solar-powered fan setup. I’ll poke at mine when I get it and post some results. It would be almost mandatory to have a rechargeable battery in such a setup, especially if you want to reduce humidity during the night.
I’m waiting for my $9.00 computer also. Meantime, here’s a link to a project where a guy hooked up an arduino, a temp/humidity sensor, and a solar panel. http://hackaday.com/2014/08/16/hacking-a-bee-hive/
His code is on github https://github.com/exmonkey206/beehive_monitor and I’ve emailed him to see if he’s made any progress since he went silent a little more than a year ago.
Coding and soldering isn’t for everyone but for me it’s becoming part of the fun of beekeeping.
I’m in. Hope they reach their funding goal! I really want that wireless hive scale.
Great idea. I ordered one. 🙂
I’m in for 5. I have three hives, so I can do multiples in a couple and see how the readings vary. Our winter clusters always seem to be near the front of the hives, so I’ll put one near the front and one near the back.
It says “bee resistant”, I wonder how well it would hold up covered in propolis? My bees would have the device encased in propolis within 24 hours. I think they were trying to coat the entire inside of the hive with it this year.
Do you live in the south? My bees do not collect propolis in the winter. Even if it is warm enough to fly, propolis is as brittle as glass when it’s cold. Then too, winter plants don’t exude much sap. Around here, my bees are pretty tightly clustered all winter and don’t have access to much propolis—even the propolis already in the hive is hard and crispy. In fact, winter is the best time to do all your propolis clean up because it’s like flint instead of like taffy. I plan to remove the BroodMinder once things warm up because then, for sure, propolis is a problem.
That’s a good thing Kris. We are learning from the University of Minnesota bee researchers that propolis is their communal immunity system, so your bees are either keeping very healthy or combatting pathogens to which they are exposed. Bee breeders used to breed out the propolizing trait because it’s annoying to beekeepers, but they were not doing the bees any favors.
I just ordered mine! I’ve been wanting something like this to keep me from 2nd guessing myself all winter.
This is great! The BroodMinder could also be a great tool for monitoring the conditions in a mating box without disturbing the bees at this sensitive time. Count me in too.
Lot’s of really interesting comments. I’d like to give a brief update…
We are still on track for shipping Dec 1. I agree there are lots of ?? crowdfunding efforts, I don’t want to be one of those. We are juggling a lot of balls, but this isn’t my first rodeo.
We are pretty sure that we are going to start a forum and a data archive. This is a giant science experiment in a way, what constitutes “good” readings is still way up in the air. However, because of the other “rodeos” I’ve been through, I feel strongly that we will learn something useful. To that end, we plan to offer free feature updates to those willing to share their data and experiences with the community at large.
Thanks again to Rusty for sharing . It’s been a blast for us.
Good to hear things are coming along well and really good to hear that you’re planning on building a community around this (and I hope) future products.
I’ve been working off and on on a similar project, but strictly from a hobbyist perspective. I’ve learned enough to know that there are some non-trivial problems and it seems like you have them all solved. I hope I get my BroodMinder before it gets too cold here in MN to open the hive and drop it in. 🙂
Will you be wrapping your hives this year to test the humidity levels like Bill did?
No, I never wrap. Too warm and wet here.
Sooo….time for a dumb question. I got of one of these for my struggling hive. I know the cluster is in the bottom box, the top box is only 1/2 drawn, and I put the Broodminder on the top of the top box. Today was 34 degrees, and the Broodminder recorded 42 degrees. Is this too cold? It seems cold to me, but it’s not right by the cluster . What should I do if it is too cold?
I’m feeling a little silly because if I know it’s too cold, but don’t know what to do…why’d I get it?
You could add insulation or a moisture quilt (which also provides insulation).
I have both already…:(
If any of you would like to graph your BroodMinder data (or any other device, home-made or other), I run a service that can accept your data and chart it over time, overlaying the local weather. There’s “Basics” plan which is free, and it includes the features above. The “Pro” version isn’t out yet, but will include lots more bells and whistles.
The website is http://app.beekeeping.io and there’s a Demo button if you’d like to see a few hives with live data.
This is the first winter for my bee hives. I hope I did everything right. I read all I could to prepare to the point of brain damage, and followed all the advice on what to do, and what not to do. So now it’s just time to sit back and hope for the best. All I can do at this point is mke a quick check on a warm day and emergency feeding if needed.
This may not be a practical usage for a large commercial apiary, but for small backyard beekeepers that have their hearts, and more money invested than honey return into their endeavor. Has anyone ever thought of some kind of hive heating system that just keeps the hive above, lets just say, 55 degrees Fahrenheit during very cold windy weather. Maybe something like, “heated follower boards” or something on that line. Nothing that would cook the bees, just make sure you never approach critical cold. I know I’m going to get some people that say, let the weak hives die off for genetics, but sometimes good genetics just get a bad shake in life.
I would hate to lose a viable hive when I spent copious hours helping to prepare them for winter and stopped just short when it hit 15 below zero for 3 night with high winds. Just wondering, is it something worth working on, or has it been done and failed. I find limited info even with extensive searching. I see people spending ridiculous amounts of money on liquid cooling heat transfer units to cool down computer chips so they can play games after overclocking them beyond their specified limits, and beekeepers that wont invest more that $1.25 on tar paper as a solar wrap, I just have to laugh. Just me thinking out loud again. Any thoughts????
A honey bee colony is extremely adept at keeping warm; it is one of the things they do best. No matter how cold the outside air, the honey bee cluster stays at a fairly constant temperature as long as the bees are well-fed and dry. In my mind, those are the two most important points.
Now, if you live in an extremely cold climate, I think there is nothing wrong with insulation, tar paper, wind breaks and so forth, but I’m against adding artificial heat. One of the drawbacks is the bees may reduce their warming activities due to the balmy air and instead go outside for a fly-around, thinking it must be warm out there. Depending on the temperature, these bees can die immediately.
Again, a personal opinion, but I think beekeepers place way too much emphasis on keeping bees warm when that isn’t the real problem. The real problems, assuming mite loads are reasonable, are nutrition and dryness. They need proper food in order to have the energy to keep the colony warm, and they need to be dry. A wet bee is a dead bee. Just as a dry human can withstand a lot of cold, a wet human will quickly become hypothermic.
Many, many beekeepers have tried artificially heating hives, but very few actually practice it. I don’t believe it’s the best thing for colony health.
Thanks, I appreciate the information. I guess I will see how well I prepared the girl for winter soon enough. They surprised me in a lot of different ways all late summer and fall. All I can do now is to hope to see them in the spring. Today was just a bitterly cold day, 28f with 25 mph winds and higher gusts, at one point I checked the hives just to make sure they didn’t blow over. I should have more faith in my hive placement but the winds were just unusual today. Thanks again. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
Thanks, Jeffrey, and a good Thanksgiving to you, too.