A group of South Oxfordshire beekeepers experienced a large number of honey bee colony losses in 2015-16 then in April and November 2017, killing 500,000 bees. With no signs of disease, the deaths were never attributable to a single cause. Being situated in an area of intensively farmed arable land, golf courses, horticulture and commercial use of pesticides, it was apparent there were a number of applications occurring within 5km of our apiaries.
Beekeepers do not have to be registered in the UK, so it is hard for pesticide users to know where hives are, let alone efficiently communicate all types of planned pesticide treatments with owners. Following 12 months of development, in April 2018, Bee.Watch was launched to local pesticide users. A sophisticated communication system that allows any pesticide user to notify beekeepers of planned treatments, anonymously and instantly through the Bee.Watch App on their smart phone and webpages.
Complex issues like “tank mixes” had to be accommodated and with the help of local framers and NFU this was achieved. It was then realised that this activity is taking place around residential areas so the Bystander version of the app was released so local residents could also be warned of pesticide use.
The Bee.Watch system has now been three years in development during which time efficient swarm management, apiary data recording and tracking invasive species modules have been introduced.
Now Bee.Watch is being used by a range of users and during all of this the security of the database has received police approval, the swarm management system does not publish swarm collectors contact details on the internet and pesticide notifications qualify users under their Red Tractor obligations.