Engineering students design innovative beekeeping tool

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Hefti is a beekeeping aid that monitors the hive weight enhancing the chance of bee survival in the winter

Here at DEVELOP3D we’ve been doing a lot of buzz around our new design competition – aptly named Design Buzz.

The aim of the competition is for designers and engineers to come up with a brand new or redesign an existing beekeeping tool that will improve the lives of both beekeepers and bees.

You also have to lug these tools around with you every time you do an inspection. As my hive is located in an urban garden about 2.6 miles from where I live,

I’d quite like to put everything in my backpack and cycle to my bees. But with quite a lot to take, including my bee suit, gloves and wellies, it becomes quite cumbersome.
One thing I’ve found when doing the inspections is that it’s tricky when you are on your own to lift the frames up and simultaneously take photos of the bees. So, maybe a hands-free bee camera would be a fun idea.

Another area that may be ripe for innovation is the bee suit. I have been laughed at by my friends and twitter followers who have likened me to Kenny from South Park, a Guantanamo bay inmate or an orange spaceman when I’m in my bee suit.

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Although, I’m happy with my bee suit, some of the beekeepers in my local branch have adapted theirs. For instance, one lady finds that her hat and veil always falls down so to keep it in place she has fashioned a support using a wire coat hanger.

Other ideas could be a ‘tool box’ for the beekeeper that conveniently stores all the tools they need or even a ‘bee shed’ in the garden that stores all that is needed for an inspection, if the hive is located in the garden of course.

As our DESIGN BUZZ competition is calling for fresh ideas to bring beekeeping into the 21st Century, I was recently pleasantly surprised when I came across the Hefti.

Designed by a team of fourth year engineering students on the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET) course at Cambridge University, it successfully monitors the weight of the hive.

Essentially, bees produce honey during the summer months so they can live off these ‘stores’ in the winter.

Although the beekeeper removes a lot of these honey stores some frames of honey are left in the hive together with feed, usually a sugar syrup solution or fondant.

These are usually placed in the top of the hive for the bees to feed off.

A beekeeper should never open the hive in the winter to check that the bees have sufficient stores instead they do something called hefting, which involves rocking the hive onto an edge and judging by feel the store levels inside.

As a beginner beekeeper myself, I have purchased a number of tools that I’ve added to my ‘bee box’ (in other words, cardboard box).

Many of these seem quite outdated, especially the bee smoker, which was created in 1875 and hasn’t changed much since then.

This is not ideal as it disturbs the bees and can be inaccurate, especially if you are a first time beekeeper and can’t tell what you are feeling for.

So, the rather ingenious Hefti integrates a weighing mechanism into a bottom board, with an interface that enables the beekeeper to observe both absolute weight and relative change. Subsequently, beekeepers can accurately track and record store levels throughout the year.

If this inspires you, there is still time to enter our Design BUZZ competition, which closes on 16th July 2012.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing what ideas we get and don’t forget the winning idea is made into a 3D prototype by IPF as well as receiving a number of prizes from PNY and the British Beekeeper’s Association (BBKA).