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Open Source Beehives Designed To Help Save Honeybee Colonies

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-bees dept.

Science 172

Lemeowski writes "Honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate, with a third of U.S. honeybees vanishing last year. Since bees pollinate many fruits and vegetables, the disappearance of honeybees could cause the United States to lose $15 billion worth of crops, and even change the American diet. The honey bee disappearance is called Colony Collapse Disorder, a serious problem of bees abruptly leaving their hives. A new open source effort called the Open Source Beehives project hopes to help by creating "a mesh network of data-generating honey bee colonies for local, national, and international study of the causes and effects of Colony Collapse Disorder." Collaborators have created two beehive designs that can be downloaded for free and milled using a CNC machine, then filled with sensors to track bee colony health."

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172 comments

only ONE species...sheesh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45665921)

Why does no one ever give the full story about bees? There's only one species of bee suffering from colony collapse disorder(CCD) and that's been going on and written about since the 1800's so it's not a new thing.

Re:only ONE species...sheesh... (5, Informative)

plover (150551) | about 4 months ago | (#45666115)

Ummm...no. The current instance of Colony Collapse Disorder is a marked difference in bee colony behavior that began in about 2007-2008. The dieoffs are far larger than anything seen before.

Current theories are that neonicitinoids were introduced at about the same time that CCD began devastating bee colonies. Neonicitinoids, such as imidicloprin, are some of the latest and safest insecticides on the market, with very little harmful effects on mammals. But they have one huge drawback: it has been recently learned that they are extremely lethal to bees - up to 150X more lethal to bees than to other insects. They are neurotoxins. Even sub-lethal doses cause visible confusion in the bees, resulting in "incorrect" dances that the bees use to tell other bees about nearby sources of food.

Re:only ONE species...sheesh... (5, Interesting)

Hartree (191324) | about 4 months ago | (#45666307)

I work for a university in central Illinois that does a large amount of bee related research. (Full disclosure: I'm not one of the researchers. I do the repair work on their instruments from vacuum pumps to mass specs. The guy in the shop across the street does even more work for those groups. We get to talk to them a lot about their work, and bees are an interest of mine. see below for the reasons.)

Though there is thought that the neonicotinoids may be related, it's probably not the whole story. (see: http://illinois.edu/lb/article/72/3231/page=1/list=list [illinois.edu] and http://illinois.edu/lb/article/72/73513/page=1/list=list [illinois.edu] for some insight by two of our researchers). Most of the ones I've talked to think it's a combination of factors.

Agriculture here uses large amounts of the neonicotinoids, and the bee declines started before they were being used.

Just from my own observations (I kept bees along with my dad when I was a kid), the declines in bee population were happening here in Illinois long before the neonicotinoids were fielded. I was amazed at the drop in the numbers of wild bees here in the early nineties. The stress of varroa mites was likely a big part of that. Some other diseases are thought to have been involved as well.

The EU has largely restricted the neonicotinoids so we should have some comparison data in a few years.

Re:only ONE species...sheesh... (1)

marcgvky (949079) | about 4 months ago | (#45666409)

I have to say that this story has been recycled frequently, over the years. I appreciate Hartree's insight and think we should wait for some sound science before we rush to "do something!" (i.e. ban certain pesticides and leave millions of African children to die of malaria, for example).

Re:only ONE species...sheesh... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666657)

Given the importance of bees in our agricultural system, I'd think that a little caution would be prudent. There's no need to ban substances outright on a permanent basis, but a 2-3 year moratorium would allow us to see whether it solves the problem and decide whether the ban should be made permanent.

The "let's do nothing until we're sure" strategy isn't really the way you want to play the "preserving a resource we need to produce our food" game.

Re:only ONE species...sheesh... (1)

plover (150551) | about 4 months ago | (#45667061)

I don't think we need to go that far. If pesticides are truly the problem, it should be evident in fewer cases of CCD in regions that are mostly covered in organic farms. They might need to restrict local homeowner uses on flowers and gardens, just for a test. Plus, there is no evidence that removing one cause is sufficient to recover the populations. Mites could still be a significant factor.

Re:only ONE species...sheesh... (1)

plover (150551) | about 4 months ago | (#45666931)

I agree that it's far from proven. Pesticides, however, are still likely to be significant contributors.

Re:only ONE species...sheesh... (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 4 months ago | (#45667587)

They quite possibly are part of the problem. If not as a main cause, then as an exacerbating factor. And, though the neonicotinoids are currently under suspicion, it could be other chemicals, or combinations of them that are contributing. Nearly anything that reduces the overall health of a hive is going to make it just that much worse whether it's the main cause or not.

And, it could be that varroa mites and diseases have hurt the colonies enough that chemicals in amounts that wouldn't have had a major impact now do.

The restrictions in the EU make for an interesting experiment with the US and other areas as a control. But, it'll take a bit of time to get good data.
 

New study what's killing the bees; future of ag (5, Informative)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 4 months ago | (#45667001)

http://qz.com/107970/scientists-discover-whats-killing-the-bees-and-its-worse-than-you-thought/ [qz.com]
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0070182#authcontrib [plosone.org]
-----
Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch's brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.
    When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.
    Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they're designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.
    "There's growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals," Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study's lead author, told Quartz.
    Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides. ...
    Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the countryâ(TM)s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And thatâ(TM)s not just a west coast problemâ"California supplies 80% of the worldâ(TM)s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.
----

This has been so obvious for many many years to the organic faring community... It is just another negative externality of conventional farming practice, and another example of market failure to account for systemic risk.
http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/162375-whos-killing-the-bees-new-study-implicates-virtually-every-facet-of-modern-farming [extremetech.com]

In general, safety studies are almost never done (including for human health) on *combinations* of chemicals (including human medicines). And studies of health effects of individual chemical's health affects often ignore secondary, tertiary, and further breakdown products.

The future of agriculture is probably indoors powered by cheap electricity (from fusion and solar) and managed by robots (including probably pollination).
http://www.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/farm-indoors.htm [howstuffworks.com]
http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/TCHAR06.txt [juliansimon.com]
http://www.fastcoexist.com/1682095/this-robotic-bee-just-took-flight-to-pollinate-crops-and-maybe-spy-on-you [fastcoexist.com]
http://www.boston.com/business/innovation/blogs/inside-the-hive/2013/10/29/greenhouse-robot-firm-harvest-automation-raises-series-financing/yAWEEBZ0jOwbanmk7qOliL/blog.html [boston.com]
http://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/index.php?option=com_lyftenbloggie&view=entry&year=2013&month=12&day=10&id=112%3Afrmr-us-fusion-chief-focus-fusion-merits-qhigher-level-of-investmentq&Itemid=90 [lawrencevi...hysics.com]
http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/10/15/solar-energy-has-blown-past-grid-parity.aspx [fool.com]
http://cleantechnica.com/2013/11/13/global-solar-pv-installations-will-double-hit-grid-parity-by-2020/ [cleantechnica.com]
http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/17/world/meast/qatar-sahara-forest-project/ [cnn.com]

Re:New study what's killing the bees; future of ag (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45669611)

Mostly relevant until you got to the last paragraph. It's not possible to do a safety study on all plausible combinations of chemicals, even in uhamn medicine. However, the breakdown products are most certainly evaluated in safety studies. Yeah, I lost a good small molecule (can't say which or for what, obviously) to that. So much for that Christmas bonus.

Re:New study what's killing the bees; future of ag (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 4 months ago | (#45670317)

It's kind of obvious that Bees are being killed off with "death by a thousand cuts." Whether it be the GM pesticides built into plants, or some other toxin we find in the pollen -- the point is; we have too many knives.

In our "profit only" driven system, we have to prove a specific cause to shut down a specific product. It will take decades to prove a specific cause -- and meanwhile, someone will come out with a new GM product or pesticide and yet another knife.

The number of fingers being pointed will outnumber the bees before too long.

Re:New study what's killing the bees; future of ag (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 4 months ago | (#45670351)

TL;DR

AIDS patients die because of Pneumonia or a host of rare diseases that do not kill off healthy people. Bees die off due to parasites, diseases, and many maladies that do not kill healthy bees.

So our current unnatural pesticide and GM farming practices are causing Bees to die by opportunistic infections and parasites that are natural. Studies can make the problem look really complicated if we don't look at the system as a whole.

Re:only ONE species...sheesh... (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 4 months ago | (#45667335)

If people start keeping more bee hives it might be the worst notion of all. To a degree that diseases are in play in the decline more hives might act as a bridge that spreads the diseases more vigorously. I wonder if African killer bees are showing signs of decline as well and whether they would pollinate crops efficiently.

No, it affects MORE THAN ONE SPECIES ! (3, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 4 months ago | (#45666301)

Why does no one ever give the full story about bees? There's only one species of bee suffering from colony collapse disorder(CCD) and that's been going on and written about since the 1800's so it's not a new thing.

While most of the colony collapse disorders affected the European Bumble Bees, other bees are also affected.

The culprit is the MITES, specifically the Varroa Mites
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder#Varroa_mites [wikipedia.org]

There is NO WAY to kill those mites without harming the bees, and the mites can evolve much faster than the bees, making them effectively immune to whatever chemical concoction that we use to kill them, while the bees can't cope with the same chemicals (when we use it inside the beehives)

Even the Asian bees, which groom themselves much thoroughly than the European Bumble Bees, are also affected by the goddamn mites !

Re:No, it affects MORE THAN ONE SPECIES ! (3, Informative)

caferace (442) | about 4 months ago | (#45667689)

We had mites through the fall, and killed most of them by dosing the entire colony with .... powdered sugar. Yes, we lost a bunch of bees, but the mites are gone.

Re:No, it affects MORE THAN ONE SPECIES ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45669237)

Even the Asian bees, which groom themselves much thoroughly than the European Bumble Bees, are also affected by the goddamn mites !

Why don't we make tiny robotic grooming bees resident in beehives? I dare mites to bite their shiny metal ass!

It won't do any good. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45665935)

The bees are following the dolphins back to their home planet. They don't like what we're doing here.

"Thanks for all the pollen."

-The Bees.

The salmon are getting pissed too, btw.

What about a Free Beehives project? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45665955)

Open source isn't good enough. We need to have our freedom to use and modify all beehive-related data secured via Copyleft.

(joke)

An insecticide-infection connection in bee colony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45665989)

http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/10/an-insecticide-infection-connection-in-bee-colony-collapses/

Re:An insecticide-infection connection in bee colo (3, Funny)

Swampash (1131503) | about 4 months ago | (#45666109)

But the insecticide companies say there must be a different explanation, so that's settled then. A massive multinational chemical company wouldn't lie.

Re:An insecticide-infection connection in bee colo (3, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 4 months ago | (#45667169)

Problem is CCD happens on organic farms and in countries where neonicotinoids are banned. In Australia, and large parts of Canada where these insecticides are widely used they DON'T have CCD.

The fact of the matter is that this is a witch hunt, and lots of innocents are being burnt on no reliable evidence.

But what the heck. Science be damned we KNOW it's the fault of some greedy company somewhere.

Re:An insecticide-infection connection in bee colo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667693)

Except for the fact that bees are shipped globally now. Always working, eventually a few of them hit a red light district, well you know the result of that. The question is, why the f are bees allowed to be transported globally? Yes globally, Australia to the U.S., U.S. to China and back again, U.S. to S. America and back again. WTF? People pretend it's just a local guy with a few hives that are being affected. No, once again it's mega corporations doing the damage. Once again it's not good enough to make a decent living, no we have to f.ing corner the market, destroy the little guy. Like all things in this "global economy" it's gotten out of hand. Sometimes things shouldn't be transported around the world multiple times every year and expect to stay healthy. Bees are one of them.

Re:An insecticide-infection connection in bee colo (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 4 months ago | (#45670419)

It's too farfetched to think that industrial farming and the use of GM modification in plants to imbed pesticides might actually have COLLATERAL DAMAGE?

However, I think we need a citation for this widespread proof you are seeing. There's not a lot of places anymore where there are no GM crops which are likely more a key player than the pesticides.

Re:An insecticide-infection connection in bee colo (1)

fatphil (181876) | about 4 months ago | (#45669161)

There are drug company representatives (Bayer, Monsanto) behind some of the "pesticides are almost certainly fucking things up" reports:

http://www.setac.org/resource/resmgr/publications_and_resources/executivesummarypollinators_.pdf?hhSearchTerms=SETAC+and+Pellston+and+Workshop

Of course, maybe their boss' boss' boss doesn't know about this yet, which is why they're still in a job.

Always the case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666189)

CEO researcher and campaigner David Sanchez said: “Although publicly calling for science-based decisions, industry's strategy is to attack scientists when science is not on their side.

Isn't that always the case?

I've become so cynical, if a business says that the sky is blue, I'm gonna look out the window. I consider them ALL liars until proven otherwise and if I can't find proof that they're telling the truth, then I default to liar(s).

Profit rules; people drools.

Re:Is the Bayer company killing the bees? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 months ago | (#45666837)

The AC above hit the nail on the head, although I doubt it's just Bayer. My guess, though, living in the middle of a farming state is that Bayer will be selling a lot less of the pesticides thought to cause this. More study is nice, but we know these chemicals fuck bees up. While they're studying (and they should continue) they should stop using these insecticides.

I wonder if Monsanto is working on a patented, genetically engineered bee that's resistant to this stuff?

CNC ?? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666031)

Collaborators have created two beehive designs that can be downloaded for free and milled using a CNC machine, then filled with sensors to track bee colony health.

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=How+to+build+a+beehive%3F [lmgtfy.com]

No CNC machine. Just some wood and glue. Want sensors? Add them. I'm actually surprised this didn't ask for 3D printers!

Perhaps, if you want to stop bees from dying, perhaps, just perhaps, ban systemic pesticides. Ban nicotinoids. Don't want to? Well, then don't bitch all all bees are killed off.

Wild bees not disappearing (4, Interesting)

timkb4cq (761046) | about 4 months ago | (#45666065)

While commercial beekeepers have been having trouble with their bees, here in Florida we've had more wild bees than ever before. They're building hives in residential areas - in attics, in backyard trees, under manufactured homes, in walls of abandoned homes, etc. Commercial beekeepers don't want these bees because it's more expensive to test them to determine whether they are "Africanized" than to buy new, so they are usually killed by exterminators. If bees were truly as threatened as the headlines claim, wouldn't at least some beekeepers be collecting these hives instead of homeowners having to pay hundreds of dollars to have them killed?

Re:Wild bees not disappearing (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#45666729)

"While commercial beekeepers have been having trouble with their bees, here in Florida we've had more wild bees than ever before."

Besides... I've been hearing this "20% last year... 30% last year" BULLSHIT for at least 10 years. If it were even approximately true, the U.S. would be knee-deep in negative bees by now.

(Before anybody replies... yes, I know that 30% of 0.0001 is not negative. Just a slight exaggeration to make a point, okay?)

But on a more serious note: I can also add my "anecdotal evidence" that wild bees have been plentiful in this area. Last summer I had a hard time believing how many bees (and yes, I mean honeybees not any other variety) were all over the flowers.

I am as concerned about problems with bees as anybody... but BS doesn't help solve anything.

Re:Wild bees not disappearing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666775)

Maybe they're also making a point with slight exaggerations. Otherwise known as BULLSHIT.

Re:Wild bees not disappearing (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#45667017)

"Maybe they're also making a point with slight exaggerations. Otherwise known as BULLSHIT."

The DIFFERENCE is that I'm not pretending to be a major news company or somebody with a product to promote. I'm just giving my opinion on Slashdot. :)

Re:Wild bees not disappearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45668259)

Oh, okay. Feel free to spread all the exaggerated BULLSHIT you want, without any consequences.

Re:Wild bees not disappearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667655)

If it were even approximately true, the U.S. would be knee-deep in negative bees by now.

And between carbon nanotubes and other buttmagical tech, we should have at least a 100,000% increase in battery storage density.

20% last year... 30% last year [...] yes, I know that 30% of 0.0001 is not negative.

Yeah but if the percentage reaches too far over one hundred then we could end up with less than no bees.

Re:Wild bees not disappearing (2)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 months ago | (#45668465)

We've had the same problems in Ontario(pretty damn far north from Florida). The heavily domesticated bees are suffering colony collapse, wild bees are thriving, in the last 5 years I've had 4 new hives pop up on my property in different areas. And my property isn't big, 38x120ft. Each time, I got my cousins boyfriend to come and collect the hives. These hives are doing fine, with only a normal 10-30% winter die off. While his heavily domesticated bees are suffering upwards of 50% or collapsing unless a new queen is transplanted from another hive.

Re:Wild bees not disappearing (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#45666753)

"... we've had more wild bees than ever before"

Maybe they're tired of their "keepers" and just want to be free. :)

Statistics! - in Europe they do (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45668777)

I have hardly seen any wild bee this summer. Once I have seen tenths of them every day. How did you translate an abundance of bees in your particular area to "wild bees not disappearing"?

Re:Wild bees not disappearing (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#45669579)

Commercial beekeepers don't want these bees because it's more expensive to test them to determine whether they are "Africanized" than to buy new, so they are usually killed by exterminators.

Africanized bees have already taken over South America. North America is next. It will happen. The only question is how long it will take.

AKA humans causing bee death (3, Insightful)

anne on E. mouse cow (867445) | about 4 months ago | (#45666091)

The cause is known but for some reason some countries refuse to take the necessary action - ban the harmful pesticides, fungicides and stop over-working the bees.

Here in Britain we have a history of allowing poisons - MDF, air pollution, pesticides, Asbestos, trans-fats, BPA, a whole slew of nasty shit that are called food additives, if banning anything causes some company to lose money then it isn't banned.

http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/scientists-discover-another-cause-bee-deaths-and-its-really-bad-news.html [treehugger.com]

When bathing in a bath of poison, switching to a different bath design is not going to help.

Re:AKA humans causing bee death (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666297)

Science says the nicotinoids don't help, but Science also says this is not the only reason for colony collapse. viral and other diseases have probably been introduced.

Rather than chanting the simplistic 'ban insecticide' maybe what we need is 'do more good science now' because if we ban insecticide and don't fix the viral issue, we're not actually better off.

How about (for instance) exploring alternative pollenation species? I have been told that many locations have a mix of viable pollenators, insect and otherwise. The assumption "it has to be bees" is possibly faulty.

I like bees. I like honey. I don't like people chanting slogans.

Re:AKA humans causing bee death (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666817)

Darwin Capitalism.

Companies selling the chemicals are gaining at the cost of everyone else. Either society will evolve laws against this, or the bees will evolve to find their way home through a haze of chemicals. Maybe both. Meanwhile, people are profiting while they cause this.

To really stop them, it has to be made unprofitable.

Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (2, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 months ago | (#45666141)

Basically, the problem is that beekeeping has a monoculture problem - watch the video at the end of this link [permies.com] which explains that basically the bees are not treated well and there's not really a diversity of managed bees.

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (5, Informative)

MarkRose (820682) | about 4 months ago | (#45666219)

I was just about to post that video. A summary from the YouTube video description:

12 things to prevent colony collapse disorder:

#1 general approach: use organic practices
#2 general approach: strengthen bee immune system instead of "attack and kill" what nature uses to remove weak bees
#3 don't use insecticide (for mite control or any other insect problem) inside of hives - bees are insects!
#4 allow bees to create their own cell size (typically smaller) - no more pre-made foundation or cells
#5 genetics based on "survival of the fittest" is superior to genetics resulting from mass production where the weak are medicated
#6 swarming is the natural way to good genetics
#7 local bees have adapted to challenges in your area
#8 stop moving hives
#9 feed bees honey, not sugar water
#10 feed bees polyculture blossoms, not monoculture
#11 stop using insecticides on crops - bees are insects!
#12 raise hives off the ground

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45668721)

Feed bees honey not sugar?

Are you mad? Thats the number one way to give a healthy hive AFB or something else nasty and I personally like my beehives and don't feel like burning them down because I gave them AFB from tainted honey.

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45669395)

Maybe let them eat a bit of their own honey?

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | about 4 months ago | (#45669761)

Feed bees honey not sugar?

Are you mad? Thats the number one way to give a healthy hive AFB or something else nasty and I personally like my beehives and don't feel like burning them down because I gave them AFB from tainted honey.

Yes, if only there were a way for bees to make their own honey......

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666743)

You're right, a large part of the problem is that bees are now commonly fed high fructose corn syrup and other food substitutes - cheap garbage that increases honey production, but at the cost of lowered hive immunity. Then you add toxic pesticides (aren't they all) and it's a wrap. Bye bye bees.

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#45666827)

"Basically, the problem is that beekeeping has a monoculture problem - watch the video at the end of this link which explains that basically the bees are not treated well and there's not really a diversity of managed bees."

Mod parent up.

I've been making this monoculture argument for years. It is just as valid as a reason why spread of "Roundup Ready" corn and other crops are a very Bad Idea.

History is chock-full of examples of why monoculture crops (and bees are a "crop" of sorts) is courting disaster. When you are dependent on a monoculture, any little thing can cause it all to "collapse". The Irish Potato Famine is one good, famous example.

Diversity is a usually good thing, whether you're talking about human cultures, or food crops.

(However, when it comes to people it isn't a matter of "forcing" diversity, the way U.S. universities have tried to do. When they do that, what they end up with instead is many clones of the same mix. It doesn't work that way. That isn't diversity at all; it's homogeneity. When you dump the same ingredients into 100 different blenders, you get 100 times the same old soup.)

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666907)

I wasn't convinced about your monoculture argument until it swerved into racist territory in the last paragraph.

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 months ago | (#45667341)

What is truly racism is playing favoritism to any one race, thereby weakening people.

Re:Colony Collapse Disorder already understood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667663)

Ah, the famous "rebuttal by calling someone a racist" technique! Works every time, to make you look like an ignorant twat.

Interesting process (1)

regular_guy (1979018) | about 4 months ago | (#45666197)

At first I was thinking about the design, and while I'm no expert I was immediately concerned about the "bee space" along some of the angled portions inside the hive, though it being a top bar design I'm not certain that's so much an issue. I do wonder about the sensor apparatus, as a key issue would be the ability to monitor sections of the hive much like the work done by Meitalovs et. al ("Automatic microclimate controlled beehive observation system." [tf.llu.lv]) It's been a bugger for me just to put any kind of sensor in a hive without it being covered in propolis, so I'd be interested to see what they plan on doing with the Arduino-based Smart Citizen Kit. But it seems like good intentions on these guys' parts, so kudos to them!

There's no mystery. (5, Insightful)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45666275)

It's real simple: monoculture and chemicals -- agricultural chemical warfare.

Hobby beekeepers are not having this problem in the cities. It's the commercial guys out where the spray'n'pray farms are who are losing bees.

The only reason that *everyone* doesn't know this yet -- is because the makers of said chemicals (cough Monsanto cough and others) have heavily invested in creating confusion around the issue to hide the fact that it's THEIR PRODUCTS killing the bees.

There is nothing further to investigate. We don't need any goddamn sensors in the beehives. We don't need to spend any more tax dollars or time researching this. We need to start banning some shit. Now. Yesterday.

Re:There's no mystery. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666835)

my wife and I are hobbiest bee keepers in the rural northwest. last year we lost 6 hives to mites and . we are not, repeat not, commercial bee keepers.
Perhaps you are not only wrong, but also a MORON.

Re:There's no mystery. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667085)

Absolutely true - we lost several. It's also worth mentioning that hives do die - a professional I know lost 25% last year, and said that wasn't unusual. A lot of the problem is people who don't study or keep bees offering completely baseless opinions.

Re:There's no mystery. (4, Informative)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45667145)

A lot of the problem is people who don't study or keep bees offering completely baseless opinions.

I do keep bees, asshat. I also make my own equipment, and do cutouts. I am not a professional, but I also don't lose anywhere near 25% of my bees! Let's just say I'm always learning, but I know a thing or two.

I'll make this real simple:

1) Spray insecticide on bees; they die.
2) Place bees near commercial agriculture where:
3) Farmers spray insecticides.
4) Bees die.

I'm sorry to you and the other nitwit AC, but this is fall-off-log-backwards dead simple fucking obvious even to morons.

Re:There's no mystery. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667959)

I'm the anonymous who called you out on being a MORON. The claim still stands undefended as there is no commercial agriculture within 5 miles of any of my bees. You can make things as simple as you want, but as I am both science and philosophically oriented I prefer scientific studies to generate facts and not untutored opinions.
Yes, pesticides can and and do kill bees, but so do mites. We used powdered sugar treatments but the treatments were ineffective in removing all the mites. This season we have used a hop extract treatment and have not lost bees. Maybe things are so simple for you because you are ...
Regards,
  skippy

Re:There's no mystery. (1)

hotdiggity (987032) | about 4 months ago | (#45670147)

I'm the anonymous who called you out on being a MORON

... as I am both science and philosophically oriented I prefer scientific studies to generate facts and not untutored opinions.

You throw around a lot of ad hominem attacks, name-calling, and personal anecdotal evidence for someone supposedly science and philosophically oriented, Skippy the Anonymous Coward.

Re:There's no mystery. (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 4 months ago | (#45670373)

LOL.

But morons have the advantage that they don't have industry hired research studying Logs instead of Idiots.

Re:There's no mystery. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45668151)

Perhaps you're just a faggot shill working for Monsanto.

Re:There's no mystery. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667721)

Monsanto is behind it, it must be bad!

Re:There's no mystery. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45668995)

Monsanto is behind it, it must be bad!

That sounds like a decent rule of thumb given their history.

Re:There's no mystery. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667995)

Monsanto: Makes products like roundup that kill bees. they also make seeds. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Re:There's no mystery. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45669563)

Roundup is a herbicide, and in no way related to neonicotinoids (insecticides), or for that matter bee deaths.

I understand there's a lot about Monsanto you can disagree with, and there are a lot of actually valid arguments you could have made to discredit them, but what you claim here is simply not true.

Re:There's no mystery. (1)

caseih (160668) | about 4 months ago | (#45669711)

I think I know what you were trying to say, but you messed up with the roundup part. Please get your facts straight. Roundup is a herbicide, not an insecticide. An overused and ultimately problem-causing herbicide, but not related to bees in any way that I know of. At least in this context.

The suspected class of insecticide is neonicotinoids, which is actually a naturally-occurring pesticide secreted by some plants. Two companies that I know of, Bayer and Syngenta, produce an insecticide based on this chemical that coats the seeds of certain crops (pulses, corn, etc) when planted. The idea is the plant will take the chemical in systemically, and become unappealing for insects like weevils when they chomp into the leaf. And of course we don't know if when bees come along to the flowers if the chemical is still in the plant enough to kill or hurt them.

Maybe they're just tired of working for free? (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 4 months ago | (#45666339)

Obligatory Fight Club reference:

worker bees can leave
even drones can fly away
the queen is their slave

FUD running out (1)

PsyMan (2702529) | about 4 months ago | (#45666341)

With the world rapidly running out of straws to clutch what on earth are we going to have to fear? Without fear, we have no control. Personally I am afraid of revolution caused by lack of oppressive fear of stuff. Or am I just fearing....stuff?

Not alarming (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 4 months ago | (#45666379)

Crop growers need bees. Beekeepers supply bees. When bees die, beekeepers make more. Maybe crop growers pay more and prices increase a little.

If pesticides on crops are killing bees, crop growers might have to decide whether they want the benefit of the pesticide at the cost of paying more for bees. It's probably not a hard calculation for them.

This is only "alarming" for drama people.

Perhaps the reason nobody is getting worked up (0)

taustin (171655) | about 4 months ago | (#45666397)

is that the people most affected by it - beekeepers and farmers who rent their colonies - aren't worked up over it. Colonies die off every winter, and always have. CCD means that more do, but replacing failed colonies is a routine part of the business. [qz.com]. The price of queen bees, which can apparently be produced on demand very quickly, hasn't gone up appreciably. The price of food that relies on rented bee colonies for pollination hasn't gone up appreciably. Almonds, one of the crops most sensitive to the availability of bees, have seen a price increase (attributable to increase cost of renting bee colonies) of less than 3 cents a pound.

CCD is a problem, but one that is well in hand. The only crisis is that there is taxpayer money that some researcher somewhere wants to do a study, and they haven't gotten it yet.

Re:Perhaps the reason nobody is getting worked up (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#45669603)

The price of queen bees, which can apparently be produced on demand very quickly, hasn't gone up appreciably.

As compared to when? It has in fact gone up significantly. Queen-rearing is non-trivial. It's not turnkey; not everyone can even accomplish it.

Why more research, we already know! (4, Insightful)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about 4 months ago | (#45666887)

Seeing a lot of comments espousing the sentiment that we already know the answer, so this won't help. They each claim a different answer. Which one is having the most impact? Is it a combination? Is there something out there we are using that is doing damage we don't yet see? Are any proposed ideas problematic?

The fact is - more research always helps - so long as it is not taken as an excuse for inaction when known issues are present. Glad to see work is being done to further understand the problem, and I hope the diverse reasons cited in the comments for this article are taken seriously and addressed before it is too late.

Insecticide (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 4 months ago | (#45666905)

It is weird we need to gather data to discover that insecticids kills insects, and that bees are insects.

Re:Insecticide (1)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45667155)

You'd think that'd be obvious enough even for /.ers who are usually "too smart" for the obvious.

Would help, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45666941)

I would consider helping, but I can just see this hive filling up with killer bees here in Texas and opening myself up for a law suit when someone gets attacked. And further, with the multitude of laws that have been past, is it even legal to own a hive without some kind of hugely expensive license today?

Re:Would help, but... (3, Interesting)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45667235)

"Killer" or Africanized honeybees are not as big a problem as the mass media made them out to be. The solution turns out to be rather interesting.

Africanized bees like different dimensions in their hives -- smaller boxes, less space between frames. They're angry in European-sized bee equipment, but give them homes they're comfortable with, and their "killer" behavior goes away. Colonies of Africanized bees can be re-queened with gentler European queens, too.

In Brazil, the Africanized bee is considered to have been re-domesticated this way, and it's only a matter of time before it's the case everywhere.

Re:Would help, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45668735)

If your killing the queen and replacing her with a gentler breed then you dont have africanized bees anymore

The whole "we're going to lose all the honeybees!" (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 4 months ago | (#45667185)

...thing takes on a much less catastrophic feel when you recognize that honeybees are an INVASIVE SPECIES, and that this continent was perfectly-well vegetated without them.

Re:The whole "we're going to lose all the honeybee (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667955)

Yeah, but to be fair, a lot of our crops aren't entirely native to this continent either.

I would think Slashdot would be more aware of EMF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45667599)

Anybody else notice that the decline in bees is directly proportional to the proliferation of cellular networks and other electromagnetic interference?

Resonance Beings of Frequency [youtube.com]

Simple experiment: put the base of a cordless phone in the hive and presto - instant collapse.

Re:I would think Slashdot would be more aware of E (1)

village fool (2046524) | about 4 months ago | (#45669157)

I have not noticed this. We have a yard at the base of a cell phone tower used by 4 carriers - no problems. I've been putting old desktop MBs under hives for about 3 years, complete with switch mode power supplies and hard drives, some with Wi-Fi, some with ethernet - no problems. I think what you are referring to was one poorly designed experiment where the cordless phone base was placed in the hive. If it did cause the hive to collapse, it was probably the magnetic field from the transformer in the base, not the RF.

Seriously, a CNC is needed? (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 4 months ago | (#45667637)

I'll just go down to my shop and use my Northwood dual table CNC router and start milling right away. Oh wait, sold that business a decade ago. Never mind. I know! I'll just go ask my neighbor to borrow their CNC router for a few hours..... Darn. I asked my neighbor to use their CNC router and he called the police. He also looked scared and confused. Maybe I need to ask a beekeeper since obviously the project is aimed at beekeepers who all seem to have CNC machines.

Sometimes the maker community can be dumber than a bag of hammers. If they want a simple open source beehive then sit down with a few good episodes of The New Yankee Workshop and draw up plans someone can download in PDF and follow using a minimal amount of power and hand tools. Many people have power tools and easy access to cheap woodworking tools at home improvement centers. Hell many people already have basic woodworking tools they bought for home improvement projects or to build that table they always wanted to build but never get around to. Most of the work can be done using hand tools. A router should be the most expensive tool needed. The electronics should be bundled as a kit and come pre assembled ready for installation.

Its a nice design but not enough people will be interested if the CNC part sits between them and a hive. Some will say then find a shop with a CNC and they will do it for you. You could but I bet that shop will charge you a nice "affordable" hourly machine rate and possibly charge for setup and tooling. If they think the design needs to be so complex a CNC is needed then sell the thing as a knocked down kit like Ikea. Might be a little costly but that is when you realize its a stupid idea and that people have been making beehives out of wood by hand for years.

Re:Seriously, a CNC is needed? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 4 months ago | (#45668511)

home laser/routing cnc's are now more popular than ever...

also cnc shops are cheaper than ever for such work.

if you want to bother with the hand tools https://www.google.com/search?q=beehive+plans&oq=beehive+plans&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.1579j0j4&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8 [google.com]

though, knowing bees, some twigs in a barrel with 3 holes would work just fine.

Re:Seriously, a CNC is needed? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#45669595)

also cnc shops are cheaper than ever for such work.

They are not in fact cheaper than whipping out a hand saw. You can build a beehive with ten dollars in tools: pencil, saw, and hammer.

There is some debate on what the best shape for a beehive is, though. It's fairly conclusively not square, from the bees' point of view. They can make a hive almost anywhere, but what is optimal?

Mesh network sounds like a bad idea. (1)

speckman (2511208) | about 4 months ago | (#45667677)

I'm not sure if these are equipped with wireless transmitters, but "mesh network" sounds like it. I think that's a pretty bad idea. Wireless communication is one possible culprit for this thing. There's some evidence that these signals are disrupting a whole lot of plant life, for instance, and bees are pretty nuts with their quantum dance they do, the magnetic fields they sense and create. If you're going to put wireless transmission on these, maybe run a cable to a hundred feet away and use directional antennas. I suppose you could do controls without the wireless gear, but I would bet that the colonies with internet hubs broadcasting in their midst are not going to do so well. :) Seriously.

Oh, post right above me just pointed this out. Beat me to it. :)

Re:Mesh network sounds like a bad idea. (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 4 months ago | (#45668929)

I came here to post the same thing. Check out "Resonance: Beings Of Frequency [youtube.com]". A study mentioned in that documentary said that a simple DECT (cordless) phone placed in a hive was enough to drive away & keep away the bees.

CNC milling ? (3, Informative)

vikingpower (768921) | about 4 months ago | (#45668359)

That is not how beehives are made. I should know, I grew up as the son of a beekeeper. It is the "CNC milling" part in this initiative that may make it fail. Beekeepers have other things to do, and are often too money-stretched, than to invest in such equipment.

Thing is, already 35 years ago the first waves of Varroa mite swept over Europe and killed a bazillion beehives all over the continent. And we still don't have any insight into what CCD exactly is, what combination of factors it is caused by, what factors favorize it. We just and only gained some insight into how Varroa spreads. Apis carnica has hard times ahead...

Did anyone ask the bees? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45668977)

I'm sure the bees don't care if the hive is GPL licensed or not :(

And if they do, do they actually agree with the terms?

hivetool.net (5, Interesting)

village fool (2046524) | about 4 months ago | (#45669053)

Folks, check out hivetool.net and hivetool.org. We've been putting sensors in hives for about three years - have about 15 on-line in the southeast US and California. We desperately need DBAs and programmers to help with some of the software tools. I work for a commercial beekeeper in the southeast US. We run about 2000 hives. Last fall we had our first experience with colony collapse. A brief description can bee seen at hivetool.org/cc When you troubleshoot a system that was working, whether it's hardware or software, the first thing you do is undo the last thing you did. In this case it could be the introduction of Neonicitinoids. The EU has banned them for a few years. This is similar legislation in the US: The save the American Pollinators Act of 2013, HR 2692 This is a real problem that is starting to affect the food supply - seen the the price of almonds this year? And yes, we probably have seen this before in the late 1800s- only it was called Disappearing Disease or Dwindling Off. Guess what insecticide was used then?

Priorities (1)

Psychophrenes (1600027) | about 4 months ago | (#45669529)

the disappearance of honeybees could cause the United States to lose $15 billion worth of crops

That's of course the main thing we should worry about: the US losing money...

Re:Priorities (1)

Bucc5062 (856482) | about 4 months ago | (#45669665)

how about the associated hunger that may go along with that money loss. How about the alteration of essential dietary needs as food becomes costlier and less diverse. I am not interested in a Soylent diet. Money is just the surface.

monsasnto hokum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45669803)

my local beekeepers that i know from farmers markets are having no colony collapse

the bees die after being carted around from field to field with pesticides.

gee.... how would you feel if your house were put on a flatbed and taken down highways to varied and poisonous realestate?

Stupid Hipster Horseshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45670309)

1. Yet another save the planet cause. - Check
2. Open source. - Check
3. Excessively convoluted "solution" incorporating lots of completely impractical style. - Check
4. Completely impractical result does little or nothing to address the issue(see 1.). - Check
5. Unjustifiable feel-good backslapping and self congratulatory self promotion. - Check

Let's get real. There is no need for "open source" beehive plans. Beehives are extremely simple boxes and frames and the plans are already widely and freely available, if you couldn't figure it out yourself in 2 minutes.

Plywood? Even with linseed oil, that ain't gonna last.

A CNC machine to make a beehive? Really?!

How many people, more than one, are actually required to make a beehive?

How long did this ONE beehive take to make?

How does one transport(you know you need to move the hive around, right?) multiples of these open source hives? [apishive.com]

This entire thing is stupid hipster horseshit. You wanna be a beekeeper, start here [dummies.com] or here. [apishive.com] You wanna bee a hipster, go to Starbuck, ya douche.

Misleading statistic (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 4 months ago | (#45670383)

The summary states that a third of honeybees vanished last year. While this is correct, it is misleading. Bees are lost every year, usually over the winter. This is normal. From TFA: "Annual losses from the winter of 2006-2011 averaged about 33 percent each year, with a third of these losses attributed to CCD by beekeepers." So, only a third of the losses are attributed to CCD. The other two thirds are normal losses. CCD is a serious problem, but it is not as huge as the summary makes it out to be.

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