A significant problem farmers and other agricultural professionals and enthusiasts face is not-so-new phenomena that affects the honeybee population called colony collapse disorder (CCD). This occurs when the worker bees leave the hive permanently, leaving behind the queen bee and just a couple nurse bees and enough food for them and the young bees.
As mentioned, CDD is not new and has been around throughout recorded history, just under different names. However, what makes it a concern now is the frequency and magnitude of recent CDD occurrences. Reportedly, there has been what beekeeper are calling a drastic decline of the honeybee, particularly in North America. The decline has also been observed in Europe, with reported declines as high as 50% in certain parts.
Agricultural crops (vegetables and fruits) require pollination to thrive, a task relegated mostly to honey bees. According to a 2014 White House fact sheet, honeybees contribute more than $15 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Therefore, less bees equals less pollination that equals lower crop yields and even lower profits; not a good situation to say the least.
Addressing this problem, Indiana University alumni launched an agriculture technology startup called The Bee Corp. to monitor conditions inside commercial beehives. The company was founded by former IU students Ellie Symes (CEO), Simon Kuntz (COO), Wyatt Wells (CMO), and current student Lucas Moehle. The founders are currently researching and testing sensors to help them understand bee behaviors to reduce the negative economic impact of CCD worldwide.
According to Wyatt Wells, “Commercial beekeepers travel around the country with beehives in their trucks to pollinate almonds, sunflowers, apples and other fruits. Since the onset of colony collapse disorder, or CCD, in 2007, beekeepers have experienced annual hive loss rates of 30 percent on average. Simultaneously, demand for honey and crops that depend on honeybees for pollination has grown steadily, resulting in an increasingly volatile industry. Our aim is to gather information that we can use to help reduce this volatility and to do so in a sustainable way for both the bees and the market that depends on them.”
The Bee Corp. owns and manages more than 100 hives in the southern and central regions of Indiana. The company has sourced best-in-class sensor hardware from domestic and international suppliers.
Wells claims, “During the next six months, we will dedicate most of our resources to research, which will be an ongoing process. In the third quarter, we will split our focus between research, data analysis and prototype development.”
For further information:
The Bee Corp.
415 S Dunn Street
Bloomington, IN 47401