To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN has designated May 20th as World Bee Day.
Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities. Pollinators allow many plants, including many food crops, to reproduce. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity. They also serve as sentinels for emergent environmental risks, signaling the health of local ecosystems.
In Ireland, there are 99 different types of bees, the majority of which are wild and live in the landscape. There is the honeybee, 21 different types of bumblebees and 77 different types of solitary bees. Our domestic bee population face many challenges with one third of them facing extinction and World Bee Day provides an opportunity for awareness to be raised on the important issue.
In 2015, the National Biodiversity Data Centre launched the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan which brings together many stakeholders, from farmers to local authorities, to schools, gardeners and businesses, to try to create an Ireland where pollinators can survive and thrive. Intel Ireland has proudly signed up as an official supporter of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan and we have been actively focusing in recent years on how we can make a positive contribution towards the plan.
To coincide with the celebration of World Bee day a special workshop was held at the Intel campus in Leixlip which was open to employees and members of the local community. At the workshop, Dr. Tomás Murray from the National Biodiversity Data Centre, led a discussion on bee identification and helped attendees to understand the role they might play in supporting the pollinator plan. After learning more about the various types of bee species in Ireland, the attendees of the workshop had the opportunity to visit Intel’s onsite orchard – a resource that is more than 300 years old – where they discovered 10 different species of bees including the White Tales Queen bumblebee, the Chocolate Solitary bee and the Ginger Common Carter.
The bee identification workshop is the latest in a series of actions implemented by Intel in support of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. In early 2016 a native Irish wildflower meadow of 2 acres in size was planted at the Leixlip campus. Valuable data that is gathered from the meadow is inputted to the national biodiversity database which in turn feeds the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. In addition, a number of biodiversity features such as insect, bird and bat boxes have been installed at various different locations across the campus to encourage the chances that this wildlife will have an attractive place to visit.
A number of resources have been made available to encourage both employees and the local community to engage with biodiverse features both on our campus and in the local area and these include the establishment of biodiversity walking trails and the publishing of a North Kildare biodiversity features map in conjunction with the local tidy towns organisations and Maynooth University. This year, we established for the first time an employee biodiversity network which brings together 185 Intel employees to share their common interest in biodiversity.
Artificial Intelligence and the Honey Bee
As part of the Bee Workshop held on May 20th, attendees also had the opportunity to learn more about how Intel technology, which is being developed here in Ireland, is playing an important role in protecting the honey bee.
ApisProtect, an Irish agritech innovator, deploys Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor the health of honey bees and they explained how they have developed a solution which reduces bee colony loss, improves the yield of commercial beekeeping and makes apiaries, sometimes known as ‘bee yards’, much easier to manage. ApisProtect are a participant in the Intel EdgeAI incubator program where they are working with Intel to understand applications of Artificial Intelligence for the beekeeping industry.
The Intel EdgeAI incubator, which is housed at the Talent Garden workspace in Dublin, is Ireland’s first artificial intelligence for computer vision incubator programme and facilitates 10 participant companies to explore ways that they can use Intel’s Movidius Myriad platform to enhance their technology innovations.
To coincide with World Bee day, Shane Burns, a Data Scientist from ApisProtect, attended the Bee Workshop to share more about their work. We also recently caught up with ApisProtect CEO and co-founder, Dr. Fiona Edwards, to find out more about the company’s work;
What’s the most interesting fact about bees?
One thing that most people don’t realise, is that almost all bees are female. Pretty much every bee you will see flying around outside is a female worker bee, I’m not sure where this misconception comes from, maybe the Bee Movie?
Can you briefly describe ApisProtect and the service you provide?
I established the company with my co-founders Dr Pádraig Whelan and Andrew Wood in 2017. ApisProtect uses IoT technology to monitor the health of honey bees and reduce colony losses. Our technology solution uses a unique combination of sensors to monitor honey bees in the hive, we collect temperature, humidity, CO2, sound, and movement data from a single sensor unit installed inside the hive. The data collected from these sensors provides a 24/7 early warning system for beekeepers.
How essential are bees to our world and what does the current situation look like in relation to their decline?
In many countries, up to 50% of honey bees are dying every year. A host of problems, including diseases and pests, are devastating hive populations around the globe. This not only impacts beekeepers, but also our ability to feed current and future generations. Continued losses of honey bees will impact our ability to nourish and feed the predicted 9.7 billion people on planet earth by 2050.
The UN has designated 20th of May as World Bee Day to highlight the importance of honey bees and all pollinators, and their role in ensuring global food supply. One third of all food that we eat depends on pollinators, and there are 91 million managed beehives worldwide. A failure to address the current decline in honey bees will significantly impact us all, as they play an essential role in global food production.
Our mission at ApisProtect, is to save the honey bees, because if we don’t take action now, we’ll lose our most important insect ally.
What small steps can people take to protect the bees?
The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 provides great tips for gardeners and community groups to help create a landscape where pollinators can survive and thrive.
In your garden, you can plant Grape Hyacinth, Broom, Allium, Bellflower, Stonecrop, Wallflower, Foxglove and lots more to help ensure your garden is pollinator friendly.
On your farm allow hedgerows to flower. These native trees and shrubs provide forage for honey bees and pollinators Willow, Blackthorn, Whitethorn, Wild cherry, Crab apple and Rowan.
We can all do a small bit to help our pollinators, to thrive this World Bee Day, by planting more bee friendly plants and trees.
How was the idea for the ApisProtect born?
Following a radio interview highlighting my research during my PhD, I received phone calls from beekeepers around Ireland asking when the technology I had developed would be available for beekeepers. This inspired me to establish ApisProtect with my co-founders Dr Pádraig Whelan and Andrew Wood, a team with complementary backgrounds including engineering, scientific, beekeeping and commercial experience.
We are now testing our technology in four countries across the world and monitoring a variety of bee subspecies and climates.
How is technology helping and impacting your business?
ApisProtect’s entire mission is to bring technology to the beekeeping industry to fundamentally change how it works. Our ApisMonitor Units collect temperature, humidity, CO2, sound, and movement data from a single sensor unit installed inside the hive.
The ApisMonitor Units help beekeepers to remotely monitor the health of their hives. The issue with periodic checks is that beekeepers want to monitor hives with the minimum amount of disturbance to the colony. Unfortunately this can lead to problems within hives being missed before it is too late to resolve. You can have two hives next to each other and one will be fine, while the other has severe problems.
For operators with thousands of hives, manual spot checks can’t hope to catch all the issues. Utilizing the ApisProtect solution can direct the beekeeper’s attention to the hives that need it. Our technology helps beekeepers identify which hives (out of thousands) need their immediate attention, and also plan their resource use (time, materials, labour) much more effectively; leading to more productive and effective colonies.
Through machine learning technology, beekeepers will gain valuable information about their hives including the condition, activities, and productivity levels of their bees. This will save time and help beekeepers become more effective and cultivate larger, healthier colonies.
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Media contact: Sarah Sexton | firstname.lastname@example.org | + 353 1 606 8537