Paul Cross “Development of a miniature vibration energy harvester for battery-less tracking of honey bees”

Paul keeps 15 colonies on Anglesey and runs the Bangor University apiary which is used for teaching and research purposes. He is involved in supervising a diverse range of bee-related research projects, including the evaluation of bee-keeping as a poverty alleviating tool in Uganda and Tanzania, discrimination of honey bee races in North Wales (in conjunction with Steve Rose of BIBBA), identifying links between racial purity and disease resistance and finally two projects developing micro-electronic bee trackers.

Lecture Title: “Development of a miniature vibration energy harvester for battery-less tracking of honey bees”

The recent global decline in honey bee colonies has ignited efforts to better understand the spatial interaction of bees with their environment. To date, no technology exists to effectively track such things as foraging, queen and drone flight paths or enable the long-term evaluation of navigation loss of bees exposed to potentially harmful pesticides such as neonicotinoids. This is because the monitoring of bee movements requires effective radio-tracking in the field, which is currently constrained by transmitter size, battery life and a transmitter weight (>200 mg) which is heavier than a honey bee (~90 mg).

This study is developing a first self-sustained radio-tracking device that can be attached to the world’s most economically beneficial insect: the honey bee. A piezoelectric micro-generator that harvests electrical energy from the bee’s body vibrations will power radio-wave transmission from a miniaturized antenna attached to the bees’ thorax. This will eliminate the need for bulky battery-powered transmitters and provide an unlimited energy source over the insect’s lifetime with negligible hindrance to its flight capacity. The transmitted signal will be captured by an automated suite of drones (the electronic type!).