A new project monitoring the health of endangered Irish honeybees is key to understanding the condition of the local environment
The Digital Hub and the Robert Emmet Community Development Project (RECDP) are bringing the latest buzz to Dublin 8 with a new Smart D8 pilot programme, Bee8. Together with the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), St Patrick’s Mental Health Services and the Tyndall National Institute, Bee8 will focus on bringing the community together to develop a link between society, nature and wellbeing using bees and data to better understand the Dublin 8 ecosystem.
Smart D8 is a collaborative initiative with the purpose of investigating how new and innovative approaches can be used to improve citizens’ health and wellbeing in Dublin 8.
Bee8 will build on existing work already being undertaken in the community, and through partner support RECDP is set to become Ireland’s largest urban apiary in 2022 with a total of 57 beehives spread throughout 12 locations in Dublin.
Smart D8 is supporting Bee8 with ‘smart’ beehives developed by the Tyndall National Institute, which will see Dublin 8 be home to one of the largest deployments of smart beehives in a community setting.
20 sensors across 4 beehives have been developed and installed to monitor key data from bees including temperature, hive weight, sound, humidity and bee activity levels. It is hoped that from its beginnings as a social enterprise in Dublin 8, Bee8 will grow into a process which can be applied to beehives internationally. The project already has an international dimension, with the development of sensors supported by the Celtic Advanced Life Science Innovation Network (CALIN). CALIN is a partnership between Irish and Welsh institutions to strengthen economic links and stimulate cross-border collaboration in life sciences.
Bees are excellent sources of information for how a local environment is performing, and the data gathered will serve to inform the project team on air quality, climate and pollution in the Dublin 8 area. It is planned that over time the sensors will be further developed to capture air quality and CO2 levels in the local area, creating a feedback loop between local residents and the hive managers as to the impact the hives are having on Dublin 8’s biodiversity. According to Carlo Webster of Tyndall National Institute: “The data that will be collected from the smart beehive sensors can be shared between beekeeper communities and environmental researchers through an open access IoT cloud platform that will enable a better understanding of current and future honeybee patterns and behaviours. Honeybees are excellent bio-monitors and this pilot project, which is part funded by the Wales-Ireland Interreg programme CALIN, will give us a better understanding of the surrounding environment. As a national research Lab, this is an exciting research project to be involved in which will drive human and economic impact for communities involved in Smart D8. “
Getting the community involved
Bee8 will focus on citizen science projects with local residents to promote urban wellbeing and biodiversity. Community workshops on the importance of bees and bee by-products by trained experts will form part of an inclusive learning programme to be announced shortly, while a Community Engagement App is also planned as part of Bee8, which will enable locals to get directly involved through live streams of bees in their natural habitat during key stages of the beekeeping calendar.
Community members will be trained on how to use and collect data from the smart beehives, which will assist in creating educational material to encourage young children to transform their neighbourhoods into healthy and bee-friendly areas. The Bee8 programme will also support the development of a sustainable social enterprise established by RECDP, which will bring sustainable jobs to the Dublin 8 and surrounding area. The programme will lead the way in providing insights for a sustainable model for community led beekeeping and honey production, with new technology offering detailed knowledge on beehive states, ways to improve bee health and reduce bee loss.
Speaking at the launch of the project, Fiach Mac Conghail, CEO of The Digital Hub, said “It’s encouraging to see an additional Smart D8 programme beginning, particularly one that will hold a great importance among the Dublin 8 and wider community. The Digital Hub are proud to be supporting Bee8, which will bring communities together to not only learn about the relationship between people, nature and wellbeing, but also to develop research and knowledge through participation in the project. In doing this, communities are making a true impact and The Digital Hub looks forward to supporting and participating in Bee8.”
According to Austin Campbell, Executive Director of the Robert Emmet Community Development Project which runs the Inner City Bee Project, “Bee8 is an important project that will educate the wider community about the importance and many benefits of bees and will also bring the community together after a long period of time apart. At Robert Emmet Community Development Project, we focus on building that community relationship and reaping the benefits of local involvement, and we are eager to see the Bee8 project impact our local communities in a positive way. We are delighted to be leading the programme with The Digital Hub and are grateful for the support from our many other partners.”
Meanwhile the mental health benefits of enhancing our urban environment are supported by Bee8. According to Orla Gogarty, Director of Digital Health, Transformation and Partnerships at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services here in The Liberties, “Research shows that taking time to connect with our natural environments can have significant benefits for our wellbeing, and SPMHS is delighted to host a number of the Smart Bee8 hives on a green space at our Dublin 8 campus. We are also improving the biodiversity of this green space through wildflower planting to ensure that the bees thrive. Following the installation of the hives, we are particularly excited to offer our service users and staff the opportunity to participate in the associated educational online and on-site beekeeping programme, which will broaden community engagement in this health-focused initiative and widen its positive impact.”
For more information on Bee8, visit: https://bee8.ie/