World Bee Day: How to collect big data (on tiny creatures)

1 May 2020

The World Bee Project and Oracle are working together to study the secret life of bees—and that means a network of hive sensors, AI, and some serious cloud-computing clout.

As a child, Sabiha Rumani Malik would listen to the bees. She recalls hearing them buzzing around her family home in northern India and became convinced they were talking. “All of nature is connected anyway,” she says. “I thought the bees were communicating with each other.”

So began a lifelong fascination with bees, eventually leading to her realization about the critical and outsized role that these tiny creatures play in the wider ecosystem.

“[Growing up] we had mango trees with huge beehives,” says Malik. “You make the connection: [pollinators like bees] are there, therefore, we have mangoes and so on. So the interconnections are very obvious, if we care to look.”

In 2014, Malik founded the World Bee Project—a UK-based initiative with global ambitions to monitor honeybees around the world, better understand the multiple threats they face, and find solutions to the decline in pollinators.

“I saw the connections between honeybees, pollination, agriculture, food production and food security, livelihoods, reduction of poverty,” says Malik. “The bees knit together the environment and they make it possible for us to survive on Earth.”

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