Honeybee Entrance Monitor System

Cwyn Solvi – Queen Mary University of London


The main aim of this project was to develop an entrance monitoring system that can track individual honeybees entering and exiting their hive. We also wanted the system able to be used with a variety of insects, cost under £250 per unit, and be user friendly enough so that researchers at all levels can utilise the system. Below I describe how my collaborators and I have accomplished these goals.

The System 

Our design utilizes the Raspberry Pi microcomputer system, and consists of a single Raspberry Pi microcomputer, a Raspberry Pi camera, and an external hard drive to store the photos taken. These items together cost around £150. The additional cost of an encasement for weather protection, utilizing 3D printing, should cost no more than £25. My collaborator, Dr Tim Gernat (US/Germany) wrote the Linux-based software (adapted from his previous software for trafficking social interactions within the hive) and helped implement this onto the Raspberry Pi system. To monitor bees entering/exiting the hive as unique individuals, bees are tagged with b-codes (unique black and white designs on waterproof paper), superglued to their thorax.




The monitoring system is attached to the front of the hive and the camera takes photos continuously every ½ second.  Later, these photos can be processed with Dr Gernat’s software to determine in which direction the bee is moving, and which bee exited/entered the hive.


Successful collaborations and utilizations

Another aim of this project was to ensure the system was user friendly enough to be incorporated into a variety of student research projects. Towards this aim, in late April 2018, I visited the University of Oslo (UO) to help set up the system in Dr Anders Nielsen’s lab. Dr Nielsen’s student, Pawel Jan Kolano, took an early version of the system and utilised it for his successful MSc project investigating the effects of varying levels of neonicotinoid exposure on bumblebees and on foraging returns and overall colony health.


I also worked with Dr Olli Loukola at the University of Oulu, Finland to set up the monitoring system for future research. Two of his undergraduate students helped establish the system in his lab for use in both honeybees and bumblebees and plans are to utilise this system for upcoming projects in the lab.


I collaborated with Dr Andrew Barron at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia to set up the monitoring system in his lab. Thibault Dubois, one of Dr Barron’s PhD students, is currently using several monitoring system units to investigate how foraging honeybees respond to competition.

Future Directions

This has clearly been a successful project, having accomplished all aims. We established an entrance monitoring system that can track individual bees (and any insect upon which a small tag can be secured) entering and exiting their hive. The system can be built for less than £175 per unit and is user friendly, enabling many research labs to take advantage of its capabilities in their students’ projects. One further endeavor that we hope to accomplish by the end of this year, will be to publish a methods paper detailing the system and its potential uses, for research with honeybees, and other social insects. We thank the BBKA for their support in this project.