Beekeeping technology is moving steadily towards robotization. The latest advance is a beekeeping robot, an amazing device developed by the Korean company Daesung. Called the Hive Controller, this equipment is capable of removing frames of honey from a hive, saving the beekeeper this effort. Little by little, robotic technology is making its way into beekeeping and this beekeeping robot is just one step in this race.
1 – How does the Hive Controller beekeeping robot work?
One of the most difficult tasks in beekeeping is to remove the frames loaded with honey from the hives. They are heavy, firmly glued with propolis on the supers and force beekeepers to hold them with their fingers, in generally uncomfortable positions. Beekeepers often suffer from back pain – lumbago and other ailments – and, above all, from the famous beekeeper’s arthritis, which combines recurrent stings with the constant lifting of weight with the fingers.
To solve these problems comes the Hive Controller, a beekeeping robot developed under the brand name Smart Hive by the Korean company Daesung. The idea is simple, but revolutionary: a device that, placed on the open hive, is able to detach, lift, brush and extract each frame of honey.
The hive controller is a truly ingenious machine. It weighs about 11 kilos, to which must be added the 2 kilos of the battery. It is made of aluminum and has two distinct parts.
On the one hand, a central body that is equipped with a sensor capable of detecting the location of the frames.
On the other, a support on which the robot places the frames that it takes out of the hive boxes.
The operation is very simple: the hive is opened, the beekeeping robot is placed on it and it starts. The sensor automatically starts recognizing the frames and is able to identify them even if they are of different widths. Then, scoops grab and remove each frame, passing them between two smooth rollers that brush the bees off, causing them to fall back into the box.
Finally, the system leaves the frame in the loading area, from where the beekeeper can pick it up and take it away.
The process takes about a minute per frame and each battery pack can remove frames from 50 hives.
In reality, this equipment is not intended for large-scale beekeeping, as its working times are still slow. However, it is very suitable for people who have a small number of hives and no longer have the strength or suffer from pain that makes the work difficult. In these cases, the beekeeping robot is a very interesting solution.
2 – Robot bees: beyond biology
This addictive beekeeping robot is not the only one. Robotic devices are becoming more and more common in the beekeeping world. From automated extraction lines to robotic apiaries, these technologies are beginning to bring attractive solutions to our field.
One of the most well-known – and controversial – proposals is the creation of robot bees. In recent years, several experiments have gained public attention by showcasing robotic bees that are even capable of pollinating flowers, just like real bees do.
In 2017, the Warsaw University of Technology presented a first prototype of a robotic bee. It is actually a small drone that can detect flowers and collect pollen to replicate the pollination task usually performed by bees and other insects.
A similar idea was developed at the Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan. There, their small robotic workers are able to follow specific GPS-programmed routes and pollinate flowers. They are tiny bumblebees, 40 millimeters long, with short horse hairs on their undersides. They are impregnated with a gel to which the pollen adheres and, when they reach a flower, the small pollen grains break off and accomplish their reproductive mission.
From another perspective, Harvard University has developed another robot bee: Robo bee. In this case, the shape of the bee is reproduced as faithfully as possible, including the wings that the mechanical insect beats 120 times per second. It is even able to imitate the famous dance in which bees inform each other about the location of food sources.
The uses of this bionic bee are multiple: from pollination tasks to the detection of environmental problems, as well as « spying » missions within the hive. Equipped with all kinds of sensors, the Robobee could inform beekeepers of the state of the colony’s vital signs.
3 – Robotic apiary: an apiary for the robot beekeeper
Even more complex is the proposal of the Israeli company Beewise: a robotic apiary. Its equipment, called BeeHome, is a large rectangular container capable of housing 24 hives. Inside, a sophisticated system combines robotic techniques with artificial intelligence to take care of the bees in a fully automatic and autonomous way.
This device is able to continuously monitor the temperature and humidity of each colony. It also detects the presence of pathogens and diseases such as varroa mites, applying products in real time, reducing the use of treatments and increasing their effectiveness.
In addition, it monitors and prevents swarming: if it detects that the hive is preparing to swarm, it increases the available space and takes other measures to prevent it. Finally, when it finds bee nests filled with honey and ready to be harvested, it can remove them.
This robotic apiary is one of the most advanced solutions on the beekeeping market. Its work capacity is very striking and allows beekeepers to forget about the more routine tasks of control and monitoring. Another beekeeping robot that makes the beekeeper’s job a little easier.
As you can see, digital technology is finding more and more space in the apiary. In addition to robots, there are applications such as Queen Bee Detector, an application capable of locating the queen on a honeycomb using artificial intelligence and the phone’s camera.