Solar farms could double as pollinator food supplies

Solar farms could double as pollinator food supplies

Enlarge (credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Pollinator habitats and solar farms may seem like ecologically great neighbors, but we still don’t understand very much about that relationship. A team of researchers recently published a paper surveying the ins and outs of keeping solar production alongside the kinds of plants that pollinators like bees and butterflies love. The paper notes that there’s a good amount of potential here, but more work needs to be done to fully understand the potential partnership.

“I think in some ways, it sounds like a no-brainer that we should be implementing pollinator habitats at these types of facilities. And on one hand, I agree with that, but I think it really does benefit us to figure out the most efficient ways to get these kinds of benefits out there,” Adam Dolezal, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s department of entomology, told Ars.

More than 100 crops in the US rely on pollinators. However, around the world, the number of pollinators has been in decline. Habitat loss is a significant reason for the decline, though there are others, including climate change and invasive species.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#bees, #pollination, #science, #solar-energy, #solar-power

0

A Man Found 15,000 Bees in His Car After Grocery Shopping

An off-duty firefighter in Las Cruces, N.M., whose hobby is beekeeping, safely removed the swarm from the man’s car in an Albertsons supermarket parking lot.

#albertsons-inc, #bees, #fires-and-firefighters, #las-cruces-nm, #parking-garages-and-lots, #supermarkets-and-grocery-stores

0

The Growers, Bakers and Beekeepers Embracing the Terroir of American Cities

Long celebrated in France, the concept of place-specific tastes is spurring the revitalization of neighborhoods and communities.

#area-planning-and-renewal, #bees, #black-people, #bread, #cleveland-ohio, #detroit-mich, #grapes, #manhattan-nyc, #wines

0

The Perseverance of New York City’s Wildflowers

A park in Williamsburg awaits the miniature beauty of its spring blossoms.

#bees, #brooklyn-nyc, #east-river-nyc, #flowers-and-plants, #new-york-city, #parks-and-other-recreation-areas, #parks-and-recreation-department-nyc, #trees-and-shrubs, #williamsburg-brooklyn-ny, #your-feed-science

0

Menaced by Murder Hornets, Bees Decorate Their Hives With Poop

Asian honeybees have exhibited what scientists call a form of tool use to deter attacks by giant predatory wasps.

#animal-behavior, #bees, #biology-and-biochemistry, #feces, #hornets-insects, #insects, #invasive-species, #manure, #mattila-heather-rose, #public-library-of-science-plos, #research, #vietnam, #wasps-insects, #wellesley-college, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

How You Can Help Count and Conserve Native Bees

Honeybees and their problems get the most attention, but scientists are using tactics learned from bird conservation to protect American bees.

#bees, #biological-conservation-journal, #conservation-of-resources, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

The Distinctive Black Beehives of Turkey’s ‘Honey Forest’

The beekeeping traditions of the Hemshin people, an ethnic minority originating from Armenia, are both evolving and at risk of vanishing.

#bees, #black-sea, #honey, #travel-and-vacations, #turkey

0

Scientists Destroyed a Nest of Murder Hornets. Here’s What They Learned.

Officials vacuumed the country’s first nest of so-called murder hornets last month in Washington State. The invasive insects could multiply and kill native bee populations, endangering crops and ecosystems.

#agriculture-and-farming, #bees, #blaine-wash, #hornets-insects, #insects, #invasive-species, #united-states, #washington-state

0

How an Urban Beekeeper Spends His Sundays

Nick Hoefly tends to bees among the tombs of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Happy Halloween.

#astoria-queens-ny, #bees, #cemeteries, #green-wood-cemetery-brooklyn-ny, #honey

0

Washington State Officials Hunt for Colony of ‘Murder Hornets’

The search has taken on particular urgency as the Asian giant hornets are about to enter their “slaughter phase,” during which they kill bees by decapitating them.

#agriculture-and-farming, #bees, #blaine-wash, #hornets-insects, #invasive-species, #washington-state

0

Aromatherapy in the Apiary Is What Bees Need

Honeybees were better at pollinating crops after scent training.

#agriculture-and-farming, #bees, #current-biology-journal, #flowers-and-plants, #research, #smells-and-odors, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Meet a Bee With a Very Big Brain

New research suggests there is a relationship between the diversity of a bee’s diet and the size of its croissant-shaped brain.

#animal-behavior, #animal-cognition, #bees, #brain, #insects, #proceedings-of-the-royal-society-b-journal, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Film Crew Spent 3 Years in Remote Balkan Hamlet. Will They Ever Leave?

Nominated for two Oscars, “Honeyland” charted the tensions between a hermitic beekeeper and her disorderly neighbors. Now the filmmakers are struggling to disentangle themselves from their subjects.

#bees, #documentary-films-and-programs, #honeyland, #movies, #republic-of-north-macedonia

0

A Honeybee’s Tongue Is More Swiss Army Knife Than Ladle

Once again, insects prove to be more complicated than scientists thought they were.

#animal-behavior, #bees, #biology-letters-journal, #flowers-and-plants, #jianing-wu, #research, #tongue, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Paris Beehives Trace Notre-Dame’s Toxic Fallout

Bees can act as tiny pollution detectors, say researchers, who found higher but still safe lead levels in honey gathered downwind of the cathedral.

#bees, #lead, #notre-dame-cathedral-paris-france

0

How Bees Avoid Bumping Into Nature’s Obstacle Course

When the garden gets perilous, these pollinators hit the gas.

#bees, #flowers-and-plants, #gardens-and-gardening, #journal-of-experimental-biology, #obstacle-courses-sport, #research, #your-feed-science

0

Blowing Bubbles to Pollinate Flowers

Researchers in Japan have developed a soap bubble-based pollination method that is as effective as doing it by hand.

#agriculture-and-farming, #bees, #bubbles, #cleansers-detergents-and-soaps, #flowers-and-plants, #fruit, #iscience-journal, #miyako-eijiro, #pollen, #research, #your-feed-science

0

BeeHero smartens up hives to provide ‘pollination as a service’ with $4M seed round

Vast monoculture farms outstripped the ability of bee populations to pollinate them naturally long ago, but the techniques that have arisen to fill that gap are neither precise nor modern. Israeli startup BeeHero aims to change that by treating hives both as living things and IoT devices, tracking health and pollination progress practically in real time. It just raised a $4 million seed round that should help expand its operations into U.S. agriculture.

Honeybees are used around the world to pollinate crops, and there has been growing demand for beekeepers who can provide lots of hives on short notice and move them wherever they need to be. But the process has been hamstrung by the threat of colony collapse, an increasingly common end to hives, often as the result of mite infestation.

Hives must be deployed and checked manually and regularly, entailing a great deal of labor by the beekeepers — it’s not something just anyone can do. They can only cover so much land over a given period, meaning a hive may go weeks between inspections — during which time it could have succumbed to colony collapse, perhaps dooming the acres it was intended to pollinate to a poor yield. It’s costly, time-consuming, and decidedly last-century.

So what’s the solution? As in so many other industries, it’s the so-called Internet of Things. But the way CEO and founder Omer Davidi explains it, it makes a lot of sense.

“This is a math game, a probabilistic game,” he said. “We’ve modeled the problem, and the main factors that affect it are, one, how do you get more efficient bees into the field, and two, what is the most efficient way to deploy them? ”

Normally this would be determined ahead of time and monitored with the aforementioned manual checks. But off-the-shelf sensors can provide a window into the behavior and condition of a hive, monitoring both health and efficiency. You might say it puts the API in apiculture.

“We collect temperature, humidity, sound, there’s an accelerometer. For pollination, we use pollen traps and computer vision to check the amount of pollen brought to the colony,” he said. “We combine this with microclimate stuff and other info, and the behaviors and patterns we see inside the hives correlate with other things. The stress level of the queen, for instance. We’ve tested this on thousands of hives; it’s almost like the bees are telling us, ‘we have a queen problem.’ ”

All this information goes straight to an online dashboard where trends can be assessed, dangerous conditions identified early, and plans made for things like replacing or shifting less or more efficient hives.

The company claims that its readings are within a few percentage points of ground truth measurements made by beekeepers, but of course it can be done instantly and from home, saving everyone a lot of time, hassle, and cost.

The results of better hive deployment and monitoring can be quite remarkable, though Davidi was quick to add that his company is building on a growing foundation of work in this increasingly important domain.

“We didn’t invent this process, it’s been researched for years by people much smarter than us. But we’ve seen increases in yield of 30-35 percent in soybeans, 70-100 percent in apples and cashews in South America,” he said. It may boggle the mind that such immense improvements can come from just better bee management, but the case studies they’ve run have borne it out. Even “self-pollinating” (i.e. by the wind or other measures) crops that don’t need pollinators show serious improvements.

The platform is more than a growth aid and labor saver. Colony collapse is killing honeybees at enormous rates, but if it can be detected early, it can be mitigated and the hive potentially saved. That’s hard to do when time from infection to collapse is a matter of days and you’re inspecting biweekly. BeeHero’s metrics can give early warning of mite infestations, giving beekeepers a head start on keeping their hives alive.

“We’ve seen cases where you can lower mortality by 20-25 percent,” said Davidi. “It’s good for the farmer to improve pollination, and it’s good for the beekeeper to lose less hives.”

That’s part of the company’s aim to provide value up and down the chain, not just a tool for beekeepers to check the temperatures of their hives. “Helping the bees is good, but it doesn’t solve the whole problem. You want to help whole operations,” Davidi said. The aim is “to provide insights rather than raw data: whether the queen is in danger, if the quality of the pollination is different.”

Other startups have similar ideas, but Davidi noted that they’re generally working on a smaller scale, some focused on hobbyists who want to monitor honey production, or small businesses looking to monitor a few dozen hives versus his company’s nearly twenty thousand. BeeHero aims for scale both with robust but off-the-shelf hardware to keep costs low, and by focusing on an increasingly tech-savvy agriculture sector here in the States.

“The reason we’re focused on the U.S. is the adoption of precision agriculture is very high in this market, and I must say it’s a huge market,” Davidi said. “80 percent of the world’s almonds are grown in California, so you have a small area where you can have a big impact.”

The $4M seed round’s investors include Rabo Food and Agri Innovation Fund, UpWest, iAngels, Plug and Play, and J-Ventures.

BeeHero is still very much also working on R&D, exploring other crops, improved metrics, and partnerships with universities to use the hive data in academic studies. Expect to hear more as the market grows and the need for smart bee management starts sounding a little less weird and a lot more like a necessity for modern agriculture.

#agriculture, #apiculture, #beehero, #bees, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gadgets, #greentech, #hardware, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

0

The Museum Is Closed, but Its Tomato Man Soldiers On

Although the Guggenheim’s “Countryside” show was shuttered by the pandemic, its crop of cherry tomatoes is still growing, and feeding New Yorkers.

#agriculture-and-farming, #art, #bees, #city-harvest, #david-litvin, #fifth-avenue-manhattan-ny, #guggenheim-solomon-r-museum, #koolhaas-rem, #manhattan-nyc, #museums, #tomatoes

0

The Arrival of the ‘Murder Hornet’

We didn’t stop the coronavirus. But perhaps we can stop the giant hornets.

#bees, #deaths-fatalities, #far-east-south-and-southeast-asia-and-pacific-areas, #hornets-insects, #insects, #invasive-species, #pacific-northwestern-states-us, #washington-state

0

Murder Hornets vs. Honeybees: A Swarm of Bees Can Cook Invaders Alive

While the Asian giant hornet massacres honeybees in their hives, some bees have developed a remarkable defense: cooking the hornets alive.

#bees, #hornets-insects, #insects, #research, #washington-state

0

Tracking the Asian Giant ‘Murder’ Hornet as It Reaches North America

Sightings of the Asian giant hornet have prompted fears that the vicious insect could establish itself in the United States and devastate bee populations.

#asian-giant-hornet, #bees, #british-columbia-canada, #hornets-insects, #washington-state

0

What the Honeybees Showed Me

The colony entered my dreams, my thoughts, my conversations. Something about me had changed.

#animal-cognition, #bees, #flowers-and-plants, #gardens-and-gardening

0