Tuesday, June 16, 2015

2015-06-14: First Week of Arduino Data

I walked out to Green Hive on Sunday in between rain storms.  I popped the lid, pulled the SD card walked it into the house and downloaded the data.  A quick return trip to the hive and I placed the card back into the Arduino and hit the reset button.

My main purpose in making the Arduino solar powered is to see if it will be able to run continuously.  So, I'm looking for gaps in the data or any other unusual behaviors.

Here is a link to the Excel spreadsheet with the data

First thing to highlight is that I set up the Arduino on June 6 and it ran until June 12.  I pulled the memory card on June 14.  It was cloudy and rainy during the week.  So, once the battery dropped below a certain voltage, it could no longer power the Arduino.  I'm curious if the solar panel will be able to charge the battery back up while the Arduino is still drawing power from the battery.  And if so, how many full sun days would that require?

According to the specs on the panel, it outputs 330 mAh @ 6v. 

The battery has a 2000 mAh capacity so by my horrible math skills, it would take right around 6 hours to fully charge the battery.  Of course, that is in full sun and without a power hungry Arduino stealing energy from it!

The second thing to highlight is that I think one of the sensors is not measuring very well.  The external sensor seems to measure outside of the norm.  I pulled some historic data from weather underground and plotted their recorded high and low for temp and humidity as a base line.  The data often has some wild swings above and below those values.  The sensors I'm using are not meant for outdoor use, so I protected the external sensor with a plastic cup with a few small vent holes drilled in the side.  I also knew it might be sitting the sun so I painted it white to hopefully mitigate that temperature swing.

So either my protective housing is backfiring on me and trapping humidity or the sensor is not working well.  At this point I'm guessing it is the former.  If you look at the chart you can see the humidity spike to 100% almost every single day.  Maybe there is even condensation forming on the sensor.  I may have to look at something like this https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11050 to get some better readings.

It has been a fun project that has made me learn a lot.  I'd really love to be able to measure the hive weight and maybe even noise frequency!  Maybe some day.

As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2015-06-06: Movin' on up!

...not to the East side, but to another box on the hives!  =)  If you're old like me then you probably get the quote.  Otherwise you'll just have to Google it.

The big accomplishment during this inspection was putting the second box on each hive and deploying my solar powered Arduino.  As you can see in the picture below, my deployment consists of a mesh lined ventilation board that I built.  The Arduino Uno sits nicely bridged to a small breadboard that all three DHT-22 temp/humidity sensors are attached to.  One sensor sits next to the Arduino, another runs outside the hive to measure ambient temperature and the last one runs down under the Arduino into the brood nest.  The other components here are a 2000 mAh LiPo battery, a Sunny Buddy solar charger controller from SparkFun and a 5v boost up converter that takes the 3.7v from the battery and pumps it up to 5.2v that feeds the USB connection to the Arduino.  Sitting on top of the Arduino is a data collection shield that has a Real Time Clock and an SD card reader.

Arduino Deployment

I'm really hopeful that the battery/solar combo will actually last more than a few days (unlike the 6 AA battery pack that I tried before).  I plan to walk out the the hive this weekend with my laptop and pull the SD card and download the data.

Green and White Hives: 

Since both hives seem to have good queens and have used about 80% of the frames, it is time to add the second box.  You can really see the evidence of the increase in hive population.  Bees are covering most of the frames with very solid frames of brood.

I chose to deal with two issues at once when I added the second boxes.  Many of the frames of honey from the hive that died last year were very "wonky".  There were large lobes of honey that stuck out so far from the side of the frame that another frame couldn't fit next to it in the proper bee space.  So as I added these frames to the new box, I took my uncapping knife and shaved them down flat.  I fed a few empty frames in between so it should give the bees a good guide to build straight combs.  Plus all that open honey should give plenty of fuel for the bees to build new wax.

The added box was especially helpful to White Hive since that is the hive that has the Honey Super Cell plastic frames in it.  Since the bees cannot make drone cells on the fully drawn plastic, they build drone cells on the bottom of the frames.  These cells tend to tear open when you do an inspection so you loose some drone larva in the process.  The good thing about this is that I did not notice any varroa mites on the open drone larva!  That is typically where the mites would be so maybe the mite numbers are really low so far.

New boxes going on

After I added the boxes, I put the Arduino board on top and plugged it into the solar panel.  All systems Go!

Deployment complete

Next steps:

As I mentioned, I will be pulling the first week of Arduino data this weekend.  After the bees have established themselves in the second box I will be gearing up to do two splits.  I really want to increase my genetic diversity this year.  I may sacrifice any honey production this year by doing these splits but I'm hoping to actually have a few hives survive the winter this time!

Until next time, thanks for reading!