In the 1960's E.F. Wood had developed a device called an Apidictor (worth googling) that was being used by over 200 beekeepers. It was a device that allowed the user to externally check the swarming condition of the hive based on the change in sound brought about by newly unemployed nurse bees. It seems that modern technology may have caught up and be able to develop this even further. Another recent article mentioned that a couple of US researchers have found that by checking the sound of the hive with a computer program they are over 85% accurate in diagnosing 11 different conditions. It may be as close as we get to hearing our bees speak.
The following text is copied from the Catch the Buzz free newsletter, which I would encourage you to subscribe to as well as the American Bee Journal. I'd add the links but I don't have enough posts- if you google you should be able to find them
CATCH THE BUZZ
Measuring the Buzz in the Hive
Honey bees may soon be able to communicate their poor health to beekeepers as a result of major new UK research project that aims to transform beekeeping and halt the decline of the sector in Europe.
A consortium – led by Nottingham Trent University and the Bee Farmers Association of the UK (BFA) – has launched a €1.4-million (US$1.8-million) European Union-funded study to monitor and decode the buzzing of bees in the hive and pass crucial information to beekeepers via wireless technology.
The research also involves the European Professional Beekeepers Association in Germany and the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France.
The researchers have developed a hi-tech method of using accelerometers – devices sensitive to minute vibrations – to detect and translate the vibrations caused by bees during their activities and as they communicate with one another.
This means the researchers now can monitor when a hive is about to swarm and as a next step they are investigating changes and patterns in buzzing which may indicate specific health disorders, or deterioration in the hive.
They are developing methods to transfer wirelessly instant alerts to the beekeeper, either via email or SMS, so that they can intervene and manage their colonies.
The research is expected to significantly improve the efficiency of beekeeping, making it far less time-consuming and costly, as well as improving the health monitoring of the honeybee.
Beekeeping requires physical visits and regular inspections of every single hive by Europe’s 600,000 beekeepers who have to nurture their bees, regardless of conditions.
Beekeeping generates more than €400 million (US$520.8 million) a year in Europe, but only 54% of the total demand for honey and other bee products is produced on the continent.
Bee populations and beekeeper numbers in Europe have been falling at an alarming rate and honey imports to the EU, from countries such as Argentina and China, have risen by 20% since 2001.
“Despite its importance and the obvious potential for growth, serious problems face the beekeeping sector,” Nottingham Trent University physicist and researcher Martin Bencsik says.
“Action to bring modern management tools to beekeeping and action to halt the decline of the European beekeeping sector is urgently needed, particularly as bees play such a vital role in agricultural productivity. We now have the potential to achieve this.
“Our tool will allow us to remotely diagnose colony status without the need for systematic invasive opening of individual hives for inspection. Commercial beekeepers will be able to keep more hives over greater geographical distances, which will both increase their efficiency and profitability.”
BFA research and administration officer David Bancalari says this could be the golden hour for bee farmers.
“For years we have been struggling to improve the health of our bees,” he says. “We know early intervention is crucial. This research could give us those vital, lifesaving early signs of problems allowing us to tend to our bees much sooner – giving us the equivalent of the golden hour in human first aid.”