Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

M2M sensors turn heat on parasites to keep honey bees safe

Steve Rogerson
January 14, 2015
 
There has been a lot of talk about the internet of cows, since cattle tracking became one of the early practical IoT applications, but we may now have the internet of bees. Here the microcontroller, sensors and power management components from ST Microelectronics are not being used to track bees but help eliminate a parasite that is posing a serious threat to the bee population.
 
They are being used by Seattle-based Eltopia Communications to monitor and collect data on environmental conditions and eliminate mites that contribute to honeybee colony collapse disorder (CCD). CCD is a serious condition in which the worker bees in a hive disappear. The bees in the estimated four million commercial hives are estimated by the US Department of Agriculture to pollinate about 30 per cent of the food consumed by Americans. They also pollinate many of the crops eaten by livestock and have a similar role in global food production. Declined bee populations are a serious threat to food sources worldwide.
 
Eltopia developed a compostable circuit board that senses the stages of the bee broods’ reproductive cycle and applies heat at a specific temperature and time to sterilise the mites. The circuit board is created from renewable resources, such as cornstarch. Heat is applied when the honeycomb cells have been capped and the temperature stabilises. This is the approximate time when female mites lay eggs but before the male mites can fertilise, thus interrupting the mites’ lifecycle. It is easy for beekeepers to use. Just one frame per beehive needs to be swapped for a MiteNot frame.
 
“Honey bees are in danger and need our help," said Will MacHugh, president of Eltopia Communications. “If we don't act now, the integrity of our food supply is at risk. We work with an incredible team of engineers, scientists and vendors to tackle this important task, and STM is a strong partner that has provided us with more than a list of excellent components; the team at STM have demonstrated a real commitment to the environment and represent more than a value proposition. They bring values.”
 
Luca Difalco, ‎STM’s vice president for smart Power and IoT, added: “Eltopia’s commitment and focus on addressing colony collapse disorder presented an important challenge that, with our portfolio of low-power MCUs and extensive range of sensors, made us uniquely qualified to address.”
 
The circuit is currently in research, development and testing. Eltopia is looking for commercial beekeepers and academic institutions to participate in additional testing, targeting market availability by autumn 2015.