Bees need all the help they can get. Thus programmer Mat Kelsey created a bee counter to see just how many of his winged honeymakers are hanging out in his hives. His system, which uses a Raspberry Pi and a machine learning algorithm that recognizes the number of individual bees entering a hive, is used to see bee trends over time and see just how the bees are faring.
“The first thing I thought when we setup our beehive was ‘I wonder how you could count the number of bees coming and going?’” wrote Kelsey. “After a little research I discovered it seems no one has a good, non-intrusive system for doing it yet. It can apparently be useful for all sorts of hive health checking.”
The system looks at sets of pictures of the hive door taken every 10 seconds. It then extrapolates out the background, assesses the objects that have moved in the frame, and then counts the things that are likely to be bees. It’s a fascinating problem to solve since the bees are constantly moving and because it can also ignore bees that are coming out of the hive.
You can download the source on Github and check out his detailed blog post here. Given the need for bee protection as we enter an era of colony collapses, tools like this one are wildly important. Plus it’s cool to see a Raspberry Pi do something so complex.