Bees as biosensor – Bee360 supports apic.ai in OCELI project

If the bees die out, the people die out too

A world without bees, bumblebees and other so-called pollinator insects would be fatal. Without them, many fruits and plants would not exist so easily. Yields of up to three-quarters of crops would be drastically reduced – or they would have to be pollinated differently and artificially. But not only the apple pie on Sunday would disappear, also many animal species would lose their food or habitat and become extinct. In short, the extinction of pollinator insects would be the beginning of the end of our Earth as we know it.

You are what you eat

The saying “You are what you eat” does not only apply to humans. The variety, quality and quantity of available pollen that bees collect during pollination has a strong influence on the health of bee colonies and other insects. By feeding the queen and young bees, the quality and variety of pollen influences the morphology, physiology and behavior of all individuals in a colony. Shortages in availability can range from behavioral changes to cannibalism. The quality of pollination performance also suffers if the young bees are not adequately supplied with pollen during their development. This is roughly comparable to a vitamin deficiency from too many cheeseburgers and too few fresh fruits and vegetables in humans. In a study of underserved honey bees, it was also found that life expectancy decreases, there is no or less communication with hives, and that forager bees are significantly more likely to die after just a single day of foraging than bees in the comparison group.

Bee360 presents innovative technology site for the preservation of biodiversity in the Schutter Valley

The Karlsruhe-based startup apic.ai has set itself the goal of researching and combating bee mortality. In cooperation with Bee360 and other companies, a small but fine installation was set up at the edge of the forest in Schuttertal from August 19, 2021. A camera-based monitoring system developed by apic.ai was installed at the entrance of two bee colonies belonging to beekeeper Mattias Vetterer. From then on, they registered the bees flying in and out, and especially the pollen they carried on their legs into the hive.

It was investigated whether the diversity of the local flora can be automatically recorded by “reading” the bee as a biosensor.

In detail, it was examined here whether,

– a determination of pollen colors on photographic material is possible,
– differences in pollen color can be used to infer the diversity of plants in the environment, and
– an assignment of individual plants to specific pollen colors is possible.

The data collected in Schuttertal were used and further evaluated as part of the OCELI research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, which apic.ai carried out together with four other partners. Whether the research project was successful, how high the diversity of the food supply of the pollinators was on site and what measures are now planned to counteract so-called Trachtl├╝cken, you can read here in the official final report.