BeeScanning is a spinoff, which from the photograph of the bees colony can determine which of the insects are infested with mites. It was designed by the Swedish beekeeper Björn Lagerman. Ticks are one of the most common causes of the death of bees. Scientists estimated that about 40% of colonies of bees died last year in the United States. In their opinion, one of the main causes of their extinction became the Varroa destructor mites. Usually, this type of ticks clings to the body of the bee and the brood and begins to damage and grow on bee's body, which leads to the death of not only one bee, but the entire colony. If the parasite clings to one bee, leaving the colony, then other bees can also be infected.
The disappearance of bees is a huge problem for mankind. One-third of our nutrition contains plants that depend on pollinators of insects. Without bees, people will face big trouble. Ticks can infect not only adult bees but also their broods. It weakens the immune system of bees, hence the viral diseases are increasing among bees. (Floral monocultures may also be a factor here, leaving bees starving).
The tick has a size of about 1.6 mm and it lives almost all over the world. Only Australia is the only continent not affected by this pest. This country has one of the most healthy populations of western honey bees around the world. According to the scientist, the tick sucks the blood of honey bees and additionally transmits deadly viral diseases. Bees repeatedly come into contact with each other, even at a distance of several kilometers while searching for food. Consequently, colonies of bees that have been treated against the tick are also affected by infection of untreated colonies. Beekeepers struggle with this problem, using many ways. Some use hot hives that kill mites, and some even create robotic bees. But all this gives a very limited effect.
According to Björn Lagerman, his BeeScanning spinoff will be able to solve this problem. The technology is aimed at analyzing the state of the colony of bees using a smartphone. The user takes a photo, and artificial intelligence, AI, determines which of the bees are infected with the parasite. With this technology, beekeepers can easily check colonies of bees. The results of the check will signal when to start treatment for the bees, which otherwise might start too late or not start at all. The analysis process is performed lightning-fast for 100 milliseconds. Via the collected metadata the technology will also find bees that are resistant to parasites. This will lead to the possibility of breeding new generations of insects. A team of beekeepers and AI-experts headed by Björn Lagerman works on this technology. They conducted a campaign to raise funds, for building the first online tool collecting images from beekeepers, and in 10 days they raised $ 5745. However, the company required $ 350,000 of fixed assets for the first steps of developing a new image analysing AI. They have been granted funds USD 500 000 by the European Innovation Program and the Swedish Innovation Agency and additionally USD 600 000 for step 2 'Monitoring a biological system'.
The company is compiling the worlds largest database of images taken inside bee colonies for artificial intelligence training and to pilot this technology. According to Björn Lagerman, their team is not going to dwell on the result, the Beescanning App already also detects the queen and bees with deformed wings. Additional features will indicate the colony health and provide the beekeepers with a prognoses tool and the researchers with new knowledge. The BeeScanning app is available for downloading and already in use by thousands of beekeepers around the world.
Promoting video describes the BeeScanning idea for the crowdfunding campaign 2017. However, major developments have occurred since then. More detailed information can be found on BeeScanning website.