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Last year I funded a Kickstarter campaign that intended to create and release a smartphone app for beekeepers that helps them diagnose a hive’s health by using the phone’s microphone to listen to the hive.

Bee Health Guru (BHG) is the smartphone app that was released and is in a sort of “tuning” mode now. BHG needs more beekeepers to use the app to help grow their library of hive sounds. Their existing sound library was built over a decade using highly sophisticated recording equipment, and now their software needs to learn how to listen based on the many different qualities of our smartphone microphones/soundcards. The scans take 30-60 seconds to return an analysis directly on your phone.

One thing I found helpful that didn’t make it into the article is a tip about microphone use. The app is intended for hobby beekeepers, but most non-beekeepers don’t realize that a commercial scale beekeeping operation is generally 300+ hives. Numbers vary, but individuals who maintain 25-299 or 50-299 hives are considered sideliners, and anything less is a hobbyist. If your hobby has you handling 15-20 hives, it might be helpful to invest in a handful of external microphones. This way you can place the mics in the hive entrances of 5-6 hives, then walk along and plug each mic in your phone to do the analysis.

Sounds of science
All that buzzing means something, and your phone can help translate

Honeybees have a sophisticated biochemical communication system through aromas and pheromones, but sound conveys a colony’s condition too. Beyond queen piping and tooting, or a colony’s “roar” upon a queen’s death, a colony’s sounds can indicate disease, pests, or Africanization. The physical limitations of our ability to hear the nuanced differences between these sounds is no longer a barrier….

Read the full article on page 14 of the North Carolina Bee Buzz (PDF).