​Colony Collapse Disorder and the Technologies to Solve It

Colony Collapse Disorder and the Technologies to Solve It
Presented by
Hive Technologies & Sherri’s Honey Bee Happy
One out of every three bites of food we take relies on bees for pollination.  Of 100 major crops, 70 are pollinated by bees – including apples, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, pumpkins, avocados, almonds and so many more.  These critical pollinators are dying at some of the highest rates every recorded – a whopping 42% of US bee colonies collapsed in 2015, well above the average 31% that have been dying each winter for nearly a decade.

To help in the effort to educate and bring awareness to this escalating crisis, Hive Technologies hosted a public awareness seminar to discuss the honey bee’s struggle to survive, impact to our economy and way of life, and efforts to reverse this trend through research and technology.

According to a recently released federal survey, beekeepers lost about 40 percent of their colonies last year alone.  Unfortunately, these losses may be underestimated and could end up being much worse than originally thought as the current method of combatting CCD and the massive losses by the Beekeepers is to “split” the hives.  These “splits”, unfortunately, artificially inflates the numbers.  

Considering this artificial inflation and taking into consideration that Beekeeping is a low margin business, what happens when honey production is no longer economically feasible and the beekeepers are forced to exit the business?  What happens when Beekeeping takes the route of Florida’s Citrus Industry which encountered a very similar scenario with citrus greening? 

For example, the citrus industry, once very prolific and profitable in Florida, is becoming one that only a few large scale businesses can operate in.  Going back to 1945, there were 28,699 Florida Orange Farmers.  In 2002, there were 7,072, a staggering decline.  Adding insult to injury, since 1996, more than 200,000 acres of citrus land has been lost with much the land being sold to developers who replaced the groves with subdivisions.  It just wasn’t a sustainable business, so the farmer’s chose to exit, increasing the need to import oranges from the likes of South Africa and Mexico.

That said, if the impact of CCD increases, there will be a breaking point for the beekeeper at which they will be forced to exit the business, just as the citrus farmers did.  Not only will this affect the produce and honey industry, but it will also drastically reduce the “artificially” replenishing of the bee hive population thus compounding the effects of CCD.
“When we talk to the future of colony collapse disorder, if fewer people are doing bee keeping,” said Sherri Kraeft, a Master Beekeeper and educator. “I see it as incredibly detrimental because we won’t have enough bees to pollinate the food source and food will become more expensive, if it’s even available.”

Sherri went on to describe how your local produce store and shopping experience would drastically change if we were a world without bees.

But there is hope and much of that hope is being developed here in the Panama City area by Hive Technologies.

“About a year ago, I started looking at various solutions that I could create to help solve the problem,” said Hurst, who initially took up beekeeping to observe how the insect colonies operate. “That’s exactly how I think a company should work, how these colonies work together. That’s where the name Hive Technologies came from. … The company was unrelated to any bee technologies when I created it.  The fact that we’re addressing the pains of the Beekeeping industry is purely accidental.  When I realized that nobody was seriously addressing the issue, we decided to take on the challenge.”

In collaboration with FSU-PC, UF, Tupelo Honeybee Association and many beekeepers in the Panama City area, Hive Technologies has developed technologies that will collect data from the beehives, then transfer that data to a centralized database for analysis.

“We can take this data and it will give us health indicators over the health status of the hive,” Hurst said, relating it to a hospital’s electronic medical records. “We’re taking that concept of aggregating a bunch of patient data, but instead we’re aggregating a bunch of bee data.”

This aggregation of bee data will start next month with the first delivery of these sensing technologies being shipped to the University of Florida where Dr. Ellis and his team of researchers will start to work with Hive Technologies to detect patterns of activity that will provide early indicators of hives in stress.  The next step will be the delivery of this technology to the beekeeping industry and other research facilities worldwide.  Ultimately, through the aggregation of hive data from around the world, patterns will emerge that will provide additional insight into our quest to solve the CCD mystery.        


​Contributing Blogger:

Richard Hurst 
Founder & CEO

Hive Technologies LLC