October 25, 2022

Data from a single farm: The 14 spikes represent 14 weeks, and each colour indicates one of the 15 monitored hives in a farm. The hives are in clusters of three.



Progress Update


The World Bee Project has been working with The University of Reading, Oracle for Research and Bee Hero on a research project which aims to optimise the pollination of fruit crops on British farms.

Research has shown that pollination plays a vital role in ensuring the quality of soft fruit, with evidence from our project last year suggesting that that fruit quality can degrade by between 20 to 50% if pollinators are not involved.

Honeybees are excellent pollinators of fruit crops and are often introduced to farms purely for their pollination expertise, but how many beehives are needed per hectare of fruit, and what impact will these bees have on the native bees and hoverflies who also rely on the nectar for food?

The experts from The University of Reading are leading the research to answer these, as well as many other questions around pollinators and pollination. Research students have spent the summer doing extensive manual surveys at multiple locations around the farms, visually monitoring both the numbers and species of visiting pollinators, as well as the fruit consistency and quality.

The data has been enhanced by the data from the intelligent in-hive sensors provided by Bee Hero, which automatically collect data every 15 minutes, providing detailed bee counts, acoustics, temperature, and humidity, all of which provide valuable insights into bee activity and health.

The intelligent in-hive sensors send data to the Oracle Cloud, where it is combined with hourly  weather reports and satellite images to provide a 360 degree pollination research platform. The Oracle Cloud also includes a full suite of Data Science, AI, and Analytics tools, which provides researchers with a wide range of options for analysis, including everything from Excel right up to the very latest machine learning algorithms.

Project Impact This Year

The project this year includes the work of over 400,000 bees, who have had to contend with both the British weather as well as wasp attacks, but who have managed to perform over 15 million individual bee journeys.



The work this year has been extended to look at multiple fruit crops, which has provided valuable insights into the bees’ behaviour. For example, it looks like when given the choice, bees will choose to visit raspberries rather than strawberries, with significantly larger honeybee counts seen on the raspberry flowers than on the strawberry flowers.

It also looks like hoverflies and native bees might play a more significant role in the pollination of strawberries than was originally thought. For example, a notable frequent visitor to the strawberries was the Episyrphus Balteatus, more commonly known as the Marmalade Hoverfly. Further analysis is required, but for all we know it may turn out that under certain conditions Marmalade Hoverflies are better pollinators of strawberries than honeybees.


Watch this Space!

This could mean, for example, that farmers might be better off adopting a dual pollination strategy, with honeybee hives combined with areas of wild vegetation to encourage other pollinators.  We’ll keep you updated as more data becomes available.

And if you enjoyed top quality British fruit this summer, spare a thought for the invaluable work being done by the bees and researchers involved in this project.



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