Live from the Hive: world’s first live tweeting honeybees in Bristol project

Staff from At-Bristol, Ross McKenzie and Annette Walker, with the city bee hive
Staff from At-Bristol, Ross McKenzie and Annette Walker, with the city bee hive

A new project comparing the lives of bees living in the countryside with those in the city is being launched today, featuring the world’s first live tweeting honeybees.

The University of Bristol has joined forces with At-Bristol , one of the UK’s leading interactive science centres, and BeeBristol to create ’ Live from the Hive ’ – a research project which aims to engage people with the lives of the bees through innovative use of technology and social media.

The science centre’s green roof became home to an urban beehive in July 2015, which is tended to by At-Bristol staff specially trained by BeeBristol.

Now that the hive is established, it has been fitted with scientific equipment to capture data on bee behaviour, air quality and weather, which will be compared with a rural hive in Langford 14 miles south of Bristol.

Both Twitter feeds - @citybeehive and @countrybeehive - will tweet in character about their daily activity, which will be triggered by live data collected and analysed as part of the scientific research looking at the impact of city living on honeybee colonies.

It is predicted that human activity will have an effect on urban bees as a result of seven day cycles in air quality, due to pollution caused by Monday to Friday commuter traffic.

Visitors to At-Bristol will be able to take part in Live from the Hive through a new exhibit in an indoor greenhouse in the Food! exhibition.

The exhibit will enable visitors to compare the behaviour of the two bee colonies in real time using live webcam images of the bees, interactive graphs using live data including ’bees per minute’, air quality, weather, and the latest tweets from the both of the beehives. Live from the Hive will also be accessible online from the At-Bristol website.

Dr Dominic Clarke , Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Sensory Biophysics in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, said: "This is an exciting opportunity for us to share science with the public as it happens. Maybe someone out there will spot something interesting in our data before we do."

Live images from inside At-Bristol’s beehive will be featured on the popular BBC Two programme Springwatch , running from 30 May for three weeks.

Big Screen Bristol will also be showing live images of the hives at regular intervals throughout the project, and on 1 June DreamWorks Animation’s Bee Movie will be screened for free in Millennium Square to celebrate the launch of the project. Until 5 June a ’Feed the Bees’ activity is also running in the greenhouse, where visitors can take home a sweet treat for our fuzzy friends

Chris Dunford, At-Bristol’s Sustainability Engagement Manager, said: "We are delighted to be launching Live from the Hive! We are committed to becoming the most sustainable science centre in the UK, and part of that work involves supporting pollinators, so we are very proud to use our hive in academic research. We hope that everyone will enjoy following the lives of our bees and learning more about how city life effects them."

Tim Barsby, Founder and Director of BeeBristol, added: "Live from the Hive is an important, unique and visionary experiment pioneering an interactive and engaging experience that connects people with nature. Thanks to attentive beekeeping we have nurtured a healthy colony of urban bees on the roof of At-Bristol, so we are very excited to see the results and start tweeting!"