Collection of data is an important first step, but it is the ability to analyze the data that turns it into useful information. BeePhon is an audio analysis tool in development to do just that. The recording and analysis of sound to monitor beehives is not as simple and straightforward as one might expect, however.
Getting a good quality recording to work with in an outdoor apiary environment can be difficult. Errors in the microphones can be a problem, but it’s a relatively simple one in comparison. Background noise is a significant challenge. With video recording, much of the “noise” in video can be eliminated by careful positioning of the camera to limit what is in the background. It is not so easy when capturing sound. To complicate matters, beehives can be set up in a wide variety of locations and each location can have its own types of background noise at a variety of volumes.
One strategy being used is to mount the microphones inside the hives. This brings the microphones closer to the sounds of the bees and puts the hive walls between the mics and the undesirable background noises. Another strategy has been to purposely record the background noise on location in addition to hive noises so it might be eliminated or at least mitigated.
By marking the audio files with accurate tags to describe the sounds, researchers are working to teach the BeePhon utility to recognize meaningful sounds and changes in sounds at the hive-site.