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ASU Computer Scientist Develops Software to Help Beekeepers in 142 Countries

By Josiah Clark

By incorporating technology with beekeeping, a computer scientist at Appalachian State University has co-developed software that is now being used by beekeepers to track honeybee health and beehive activity in 142 countries.

Known as Hive Tracks, the software was designed and co-developed by Dr. James Wilkes, the Chair of ASU’s Department of Computer Science and member of the Bee Informed Partnership.

Dr. James Wilkes (pictured left), the  creator of Hive Tracks. Images from Bee Culture Magazine.
Dr. James Wilkes (pictured left), the creator of Hive Tracks. Images from Bee Culture Magazine.

Hive Tracks is available as a web application for an average $5 monthly fee.

The software helps beekeepers track and store information about their hives thorough hive inspections that monitor bee health and activity, location of hives, bee productivity, and even creates a map that shows where the bees are finding food. All of the information recorded on Hive Tracks is then backed up online via cloud storage.

“Beekeeping is an observational activity. Monitoring their health and activity is important for good beeping practices,” said Dr. Wilkes, an avid beekeeper himself.

He said, “As beekeepers, we manage our bees. Whether it’s adding more food or space or treating some sort of illness. Hive Tracks allows the beekeeper to make smarter choices.”

The USDA has published information saying the total number of managed honeybee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the 1942s to only 2.5 million today, which could equal catastrophe since honeybees are responsible for pollinating 80% of our flowering crops.

According to Dr. Wilkes, bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of the world’s food. Hive Tracks was designed out of a critical need for software to help beekeepers make better management decisions.

He said, “They’re a critical link in food production. In general, bees improve the health and productivity of the environment around them.”

A Cornell University study estimated that honeybee pollination contributed to $29 billion worth of farm income annually in the U.S., and their disappearance would dramatically affect our food supply and wellbeing.

Hive Tracks has already proven to be a valuable tool for beekeepers, with more than 17,000 registered users, including beekeepers in Tanzania.

“Hive Tracks is leveraging the newest technology available to us to improve the health of honeybees around the world. This is a new space – incorporating technology with beekeeping – and it will be exciting to see what opportunities unfold. There is a lot of potential here,” said Dr. Wilkes.

In 2014, Dr. Wilkes delivered a TedX Talk in Hickory, where he said: “We want to help beekeepers – and give them the tools and information to make good decisions.”

Visit the website for more information about Hive Tracks.

See some images below of Hive Tracks:

Hive Tracks graph