Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed
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  1. #1
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    Default Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed

    I have had a beehive for about 6 weeks now so am very new to the game, I bought a hive from Bonterra Bees (see pic/vids at https://www.instagram.com/potreronuevofarm/ Bonterra suggested I install covers on the hive given bees' preference for the dark which I have and I only take them off for viewing. If I were to set up a video camera for a live feed, however, I would obviously have to keep at least one cover off (it's an 8 frame double wide).

    So the first question is (1) How do bees do in an observation hive if they are exposed to light during daylight hours?

    The second question is more technical (2) Does anyone know of a good infrared video camera to use to broadcast live over the internet so nighttime viewing could occur?

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  3. #2
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    Feb 2012
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    Athens, Georgia, USA
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    Default Re: Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed

    That sounds cool!!
    First question: They get used to some light and still build out on an exposed face. They will build on it last if it's really bright light. I have 2 scenarios. One is in a sun porch with windows on east, south and west sides and it's no problem. The other has morning light coming directly through my office from a far window in the late spring and summer. Before that, the angle of the sunrise is different and they build on the front no problem.
    I look forward to hearing about the camera!

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed

    Quote Originally Posted by brushwoodnursery View Post
    That sounds cool!!
    First question: They get used to some light and still build out on an exposed face. They will build on it last if it's really bright light. I have 2 scenarios. One is in a sun porch with windows on east, south and west sides and it's no problem. The other has morning light coming directly through my office from a far window in the late spring and summer. Before that, the angle of the sunrise is different and they build on the front no problem.
    I look forward to hearing about the camera!
    Mine are in a south facing room between two windows that always have shades down (see Instagram pics). Right now I'm considering the technical challenges. First, my service provider may not allow such traffic since I'm in the boonies and have an up/down limit with only 10MBPS speeds. If that works, then I have to attack the camera end of it. I'll keep the forum posted, but am still hoping someone here has info/suggestions on a good camera setup.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Manassas, Virginia, USA
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    Default Re: Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed

    Most security cameras are visible + infrared. They can't make out the body heat of bees, but will work with IR illuminators. I have a set of 1080P Flir/Lorex cameras on my home. Mine connect with a digital recorder via Ethernet cable. Wireless models are common, too. You can get them with pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) features. Our system streams continuously to the Cloud at 30 frames/sec on all cameras, in addition to a local DVR record.

    But most security cameras do not focus close. Mine are useless closer than about 6 ft. This can probably be corrected by installing close-up "filters". These are available for DSLRs and even for Go-Pros. You may have to kludge a mount, typically a threaded filter ring in some standard size such as 58 mm. You may be able to find security cameras with filter rings, or adapters for them. With close up rings you should be able to focus on small patches of frame, and watch individual bees.

    Beware of cheap security camera deals. There are a lot of sub-standard resolution analog cameras out there still.

    You might find some small video cameras with HDMI outputs that will run off of a power supply indefinitely. I think I could rig my GoPro Hero5 Black to do this. It is waterproof, and the macro add-on for it is $30, which should allow it to focus down to about 3 inches. The sensors in all these cameras can sense IR, but the camera itself may not, due to filters or just not switching modes automatically high sensitivity black and white.

    High bandwidth over wireless can be done but is $$$. We have fiber optic internet and can send 50 MBPS, with higher rates available.

    Indoor observation hives can be found at zoos and some museums. They are often left with the covers off for days. This does stress the bees, so the better operators of these swap out the bees in these hives frequently. Observation hives are almost never good long-term homes for a bee colony.

    I have been planning to make an outdoor obs hive with covers I could remove for photography. I was reminded of this goal a couple of days back when we spotted a bona-fide waggle dance on a frame we were inspecting, with no camera handy. I was planning to put a sheet of Plexiglas or Lexan on the inside, under a removable cover, but now I'm thinking just a removable cover is enough. The sheet of plastic would complicate the construction, probably cause a glare problem, and get covered with propolis. It probably is not really needed. Bees will usually just go about their bee business and ignore an observer for short periods, so I can just pull the cover and shoot.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed

    Thanks for all the great info, Phoebee. My internet at the farm is crap: ~20MBPS down/5 MBPS up with a 500GB traffic allotment. I couldn't do 1080, but it'd probably be 480 or 720. I'll look into some of the cameras you mention. As per keeping the hie with covers off I've heard a variety of answers. A friend managed an observation hive at a museum for 5+ years and the bees had a lot of light exposure and he said they did fine and he's a meticulous and knowledgeable beekeeper. I've got to hear more thoughts on that part of it.

  7. #6
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    Jan 2014
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    Default Re: Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed

    I do some consulting for an alarm company (shall remain nameless) that has some cameras they routinely run HD but at a much lower frame rate. You should find quite a selection on the market ... they're not unique to that company. I'm not an expert on their cameras but I've seen them run. I would run a lower frame rate before I'd give up resolution.

    Our apiary has zero internet connection. We can't get it at all by cable or landline. If we could get it, it would be DSL (which Frontier insists is "broadband" but nobody else thinks so). Satellite services are iffy ... we're inside the National Radio Quiet Zone and upload to satellites is evidently a problem. That leaves cellular services, limited to something like 2 or 6 GB a month. We could do hive weights, but a video feed would be totally out.

  8. #7
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    Jun 2014
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    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoebee View Post
    But most security cameras do not focus close.
    I think things have improved recently. I have a Reolink RLC-411S, and I'm pretty sure it would focus closer than 6 inches. I tested it against an HIKVision camera of about the same price (~$120), and I remember putting them on my coffee table and resting my hand just in front of them. I can't test it any more, because I mounted it 15' off the ground as a security camera. I think the models with optical zoom will focus much closer than the fixed-focus models.

    But I also have my RLC-423S BeeCam, and right now it's set at at a distance of about 12 inches from the bees. I'm pretty sure it will focus closer than that, but the fence it's hanging from is a fixed distance from the hives. When I visit the bees this weekend I'll try remember to test closest focus distance.

    High bandwidth over wireless can be done but is $$$.
    If you need to go from the bee yard directly to the internet then it's very expensive. But if you need a point-to-point link from the bee yard back to a site where you already have internet access, that can be done for $150-$200 with a pair of Ubiquiti Nanostation units, provided you have power at the apiary and line-of-site between the two locations. I have a pretty long thread describing my experience, here.
    Painted Peacock Manor, Palos Verdes, CA

  9. #8
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    Jun 2014
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    Default Re: Questions re: setting up a bee cam live feed

    Quote Originally Posted by wmlaven View Post
    Thanks for all the great info, Phoebee. My internet at the farm is crap: ~20MBPS down/5 MBPS up with a 500GB traffic allotment. I couldn't do 1080, but it'd probably be 480 or 720. I'll look into some of the cameras you mention. As per keeping the hie with covers off I've heard a variety of answers. A friend managed an observation hive at a museum for 5+ years and the bees had a lot of light exposure and he said they did fine and he's a meticulous and knowledgeable beekeeper. I've got to hear more thoughts on that part of it.
    The upload from my BeeCam is set to 5 Mbps, but that's partially because the newer (5MP) Reolink cameras have a _minimum_ resolution of 2304 x 1296. The older (4 MP) versions can be set to 1080p or 720p, and YouTube doesn't like anything larger than 1080p anyway, so I'm just wasting pixels and bandwidth right now.

    For the streaming part, I have a $50 Raspberry Pi (including case, power supply, and SD card) working as an ffmpeg relay station, and it's been solid for more than a month, now. You can use pretty much any extra PC, too, because you can set it up to just relay packets without transcoding, and it won't take up much/any CPU.
    Painted Peacock Manor, Palos Verdes, CA

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