An unprecedented study integrating data from around the globe has shown that honey bees are the world's most important single species of pollinator in natural ecosystems and a key contributor to natural ecosystem functions. The honey bee's global importance is further underscored when considering that it is but one of tens of thousands of pollinating species in the world, including wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and other bee species.
The health of managed honey bee colonies is threatened by a host of factors including habitat loss, pesticides, pathogens, parasites and climate change.
To establish recent and ongoing trends in honey bee and bumble bee populations and their status, and a long-term sustainable monitoring programme for pollinators, the World Bee Project is launching the National Sentinel Hive Network (SHN) using remote hive monitoring technology by Arnia. The Sentinel Hive Network will help improve understanding of pollination deficits and refine understanding of agri-environment monitoring and evaluation in the UK, strengthen existing surveillance, support the needs of policy and contribute to Defra’s National Pollinator Strategy ambitions.
Looking ahead, the Sentinel Hive Network will help scientists to better understand how the honey bee and bumble bee species impact the ecology and evolutionary dynamics of plant and pollinator species in natural ecosystems.
At present there is no geographic wide-scale data available about the status and dynamics of honey bee and bumble bee populations in the UK and Ireland. Through its network of remotely monitored honeybee hives and bumblebee nests, the Sentinel Hive Network will generate significant data on the impact of factors such as land use, agricultural practices and forage quality, on the health and productivity of honey bees and bumble bees. The automatic, remote collection of data will contribute to the understanding of diseases, parasites and predatory species and will help with the development of control measures.
Biodiversity and Pollinator Welfare Dataset for scientists and government
The Sentinel Hive Network will provide an immensely rich dataset for scientists and government to assess the health and dynamics of honeybee and bumblebee populations and will keep us informed of the positive changes we can make to our environment and practices to improve bee welfare.
BEE HEALTH AND ECOLOGY ALERTS FOR BEEKEEPERS
The Sentinel Hive Network will provide an early warning system to alert beekeepers of potential problems due to increases in diseases, pests or shortages of forage, and so forth.
It will identify local issues in real time and facilitate warnings to beekeepers in affected areas to allow prompt action (for example, a nectar dearth requiring beekeepers to check food stores, or identification of pests such as small hive beetle or the Asian hornet).
COLLABORATION WITH BEEKEEPING TRAINING AND EDUCATION
The Sentinel Hive Network will enable the development of data driven best management practices for beekeepers to make a valuable contribution to beekeeping training and education programmes.
citizen engagement in pollinator conservation
The Sentinel Hive Network is a unique way of engaging the general public with issues of biodiversity and pollinator conservation. By following the lives of real bee colonies in gardens, parks, wildflower meadows and vegetable gardens people can gain insights into what bees need to survive and thrive.
COLLABORATION WITH SCHOOLS
WE WANT CHILDREN TO THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT THE WORLD WE LIVE IN
It’s important that children learn about plant-pollinator interactions, and about the global importance of honey bees and learn that the honey bee is but one of tens of thousands of essential pollinating species in the world, including wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and other bee species. Children also need to learn that all pollinators rely on habitat, that all species of bees are essential for pollination and, that without pollination very many flowers wouldn’t be able to produce seeds, and without seeds we wouldn’t have fruits and vegetables.
It’s important that children participate in bigger conversations about biodiversity and engage in activities that inspire them to live lives that make a difference to the lives of others.
COLLABORATIONS WITH SCHOOLS
Our programmes will spark children’s inherent sense of wonder and curiosity and enhance their learning ability. We will explore bees and pollination to understand biodiversity, ecosystems, climate change, food security and sustainability, democracy, animal welfare, history, art, maths and music. We will also offer opportunities for developing practical skills, for example, learning basic carpentry skills to construct hives and planting skills to plant pollinator gardens.
The activities will include interpreting the Sentinel Hive Network audio data to inspire children to do all they can to look after bees and other pollinators. The Sentinel Hive Network can provide an endless well of resources which can be used in STEM education, covering topics such as:
- Biology/Botany: Bee and plant anatomy, bee/plant interactions, seasonal changes, pollination.
- Geography/Environment: Ecosystem, land use, food chain, food security, weather, climate change.
- Design & Technology: Computing, programming, Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Big Data.
- Science/Mathematics: Measurement, data analysis, generating graphs, statistics, correlations.