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Monitoring Bee Behavior with a Raspberry Pi

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Hi Everyone,

for my undergraduate thesis, I am conducting research on an understudied species, the eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica. Here, I will be using a Raspberry Pi to both operate data collection devices and to store collected data. Transducers and a camera will be placed outside of an eastern carpenter bee nesting gallery, and vibroacoustic and circadian activity pattern data will be collected. A pilot data collection period will between February and March. If the data collection instrument is successful, then the work will continue for an additional year after I graduate, where future students will be able to take over my work.


This work will be conducted in western Massachusetts, most likely in Amherst, Massachusetts. The study will occur at a site where eastern carpenter bees are constructing galleries.

Goals and Motivations

This work will contribute to the body of knowledge on an understudied large carpenter bee species. Here, the vibroacoustic behavior and the daily activity patterns of the eastern carpenter bee will be monitored. The frequencies of performed behaviors will be identified and two transducers will be used to approximate the location of the bee producing sounds from within the gallery during each recording.

I also intend to demonstrate ease of designing and building one's own data collection instrument, which is a much cheaper alternative to purchasing expensive scientific equipment. By combining hardware with open source software, researchers are able to build custom instruments without dedicating large portions of their funding to buying expensive instruments. This data collection instrument is highly generalizable - all sorts of taxa can be monitored for behavioral observations with this device. Hopefully, other researchers will construct their own data collection instrument for future behavioral studies.

People who are involved

I am a student in the Open Science Instrumentation and Data Collection thesis seminar at UMass Amherst.

What are we working on now:

I am currently reviewing the literature on eastern carpenter bees and on Raspberry Pi machine learning. I am also working on creating a thorough methodology for my research. In the near future, I will commence prototype assembly and testing.


Subscribe to updates on this project

Update # 1: I am submitting my research proposal in just a few days time. A complete (but subject to change) list of hardware for this project is available in the activities section. Each of my finalized data collection instruments are expected to cost around $300.00. If I were operating the instrument with a main power supply instead of a field work friendly solar charging system (solar panel + PiJuice HAT + battery), then the finalized instrument would cost about $130 for hardware.

Update # 2: I submitted my grant proposal this week, for a requested $1,000.00. This funding will be enough for me to build three versions of my data collection instrument: one prototype and two finalized versions. Each instrument is expected to cost $329.86 in hardware. Next, I will work on creating a more precise methodology for my work.

Update # 3: In the coming weeks I will continue to practice Raspberry Pi coding. Ultimately, the goal is to have a working prototype data collection instrument before the end of this year. For the initial prototype testing, I will focus on testing the transducers and the camera pre-capture and post-capture system. The solar power system will be tested after the data collection components have been tested.

Update #4: In addition to the current activities listed above, I am going to focus on practicing my Raspberry Pi coding. The goal is to continue building my growing Raspberry Pi knowledge and to start creating programs for the camera and for the transducer operation.


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Activities we’ve done in our project

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Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Materials List (subject to change):

-Transducer; -Audio Injector Sound Zero Board; -Plastic Enclosure; -PiJuice HAT Portable Power Supply (UPS); -PiJuice 5000mAh Battery; -Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless WH (Pre-Soldered Header); -MicroSD Card -16 GB - Class 10 - BLANK; -Official Raspberry Pi Zero Case + Mini Camera Cable; -Micro-USB Power Supply - 5.1V 2.5A, UL Listed; -Ethernet Hub and USB Hub w/ Micro USB OTG Connector; -Aluminum Heatsink for Raspberry Pi Zero; -PiJuice Solar Panel - 12 Watt; -Hosa CPR-202 Dual 1/4" TS to Dual RCA Stereo Interconnect Cable, 2 Meters; -Arducam Day/Night Raspberry Pi Camera; - MakerSpot spacers and standoff hardware; -Jumper Cables; -512 GB micro SDXC cards