Images of beekeeping kit.

Researching and implementing the Open Design and Citizen Science partnership

The Bee Lab project aims to use the power of technology and Open Design to enhance the practice of beekeeping – making it easier for beekeepers to care for bees in today’s unpredictable environmental landscape. Using the principles of Open Design, we are bringing together a community of passionate, multi-disciplinary people to create customisable monitoring devices that enable beekeepers to actively monitor and share the health of their bees across the beekeeping community.

Images of different geodesic shapes that contributed to the Bee Lab project.

Honeybees are an essential environmental pollinator. They contribute every day to our environment, food supply and our economy. However, the practice of caring for bees has become increasingly complicated over the past 15 years; uncertain climate, sprawling cities, weather diversity, GM crops and disease management have made life difficult for bees and beekeepers in both urban and rural settings. We believe that by harnessing the sense of community instilled in the beekeeping world and empowering them with appropriate technologies, we can help beekeepers enhance care for their bees.

Image of workshop participants during Bee Lab sessions.

Technologists, product designers and engineers are working together with beekeepers to co-create customisable, monitoring devices. Using Open Design methods, the device designs will be published online – free to be used and ‘hacked’ by anyone. Data gathered from these devices will be made public to help others understand the health of their local environment, informing sustainable and bee-friendly approaches.

Using active beekeepers to make Bee Lab equipment.

Citizen Science is the practice of enabling participants outside of the professional scientific field to engage with science. Open Design democratises a process, system or product, enabling users to self-create or edit a solution using digital fabrication. The “Bee Lab” project applies the power of citizen science and open design to beekeeping, enabling members of the public to design/make devices to monitor honey bees health through forming partners with beekeepers via the British Beekeepers Association. The findings were published and are available to download as a PDF [ get Adobe Acrobat reader free ].

Image showing how Bee Lab kit was used and tested in the field.

This work was supported by RCUK through the Horizon Digital Economy Research grant (EP/G065802/1).

Project Team:
The Honey Club, Wolff Olins, Technology Will Save Us, the University of Nottingham, Horizon Digital Economy Research

“I like the aspect of gathering individual data that can then contribute towards global issues and an aggregated pool of data”.

Beekeeper, workshop participant