Category: okno rooftop garden

dancing with the bees!

During the past three years, OKNO has been exploring the potential of sensor-equipped beehives. Making use of innovatory technologies, we are studying bees as biomarkers providing information about the ecosystem they are part of. The collected data are stored in online databases, mapping the urban landscape and raising awareness of this shared living environment, and are used for the creation of ecological works of art.
Earlier this month, OKNO is organising a bee monitoring workshop at Valldaura Self Sufficient Lab in Barcelona.
On 18 and 19 April, the collaborators in the research on sensor-enriched beehive design are meeting at the OKNO premises for some brainstorming and working sessions on new and artistic approaches to sustainable, non-intrusive bee monitoring. In which ways can new media contribute to ecology and vice versa?
The sessions are closed on Friday evening at 7 with a screening, drinks and a bee dance workout.

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the transparant beehive in the drying room

city honeybees in the tranparant hive
Inspired by the flight routes of the bees, and looking at where they are going and what they are bringing back, we are thinking of yet another project.
It is remarkable to see how a bee population functions and evolves, very much in accordance to the human activites we are developing around them: gardening and doing (urban) agriculture.
The production of honey is different related to the flowers we grow, the plants we like, the garbage or pollution we produce. So bees are very responsive to the different biotopes that we share, they are considered to be good bio-indicators. Though we seem to have rather few insight into what constitutes the diversity of our surrounding living place, and that’s something we want to research on a deeper level.
In previous projects we developed different tools for identifying the specificity and relatedness of the changing assemblages of plants, animals, insects, reptiles, and related human activities. Adding new sensor networks to our Connected OpenGreen distributed garden database, and gathering the audiovisual data with our annotation database Padma/Pandora, we hope to portray the surround Canal Zone, as it is changing over time into a continuous productive urban landscape (Cpuls). It is a diverse area where a lot of activities, from accidental nature to collective and community gardening and urban agriculture, develop between the industrial buildings, office zones and living areas.
With this new project CORRIDORS, in which city honeybees play the leading role, we want to research how the sustainability of cities can be increased in the future, and how citizens can be actively involved.

social sculpture – Gesamtkunstwerk
Concretely, we put forward ecological CORRIDORS in urban environments as a new medium of social sculpture, a Gesamtkunstwerk that relies on the creative participation of many.
Corridors are ephemeral living structures in the form of green spaces connected through animal life (such as bee colonies). They are set up and maintained by urban communities to regenerate areas of the city, particularly areas which are subject to social and urban stress. Corridors are here seen as art works that contribute to social cohesion and sustainability by raising awareness and minimizing resource waste.
Ecological corridors rely partly on methods of urban agriculture, guerilla gardening, ecological management and social anthropology. Corridors can also make good use of avant-garde technologies, so that such projects become experiments on the edges of art, science and technology.
With the “bee-mapping” of the connected biotopes around the Brussels canal into a Corridor, we hope to come to a new but sensitive representation of our own living environment, not only providing insight in the constantly changing conditions we live in, but also bringing forth a new material from which new ecologial artworks can be created, be it installation, performance, media art or literature…
Together, the research becomes a fragmented but growing territory where everyone can connect and contribute to, and where slowly relationships and patterns emerge from. We want to work with creative ways to raise awareness, not only about our shared surroundings, but also about the ways we can spread a change that makes sense with a wider than anthropomorphic view only. In a world we share. Guided by social insects, the bees, following them on their flights across the land and cityscapes we live in.
We see this – in the OKNO tradition – as a multifaceted work made over time by artists, technicians, and scientists together, but also involving an audience, by now skillful with ICT and interested in ecological and urban issues.

ICT for the monitoring and mapping of the corridors
The project will develop the ICT components necessary to support the bottom-up emergence of ecological corridors in urban areas.
Several ICT technologies are crucial to achieve such corridors: Embedded systems, novel sensors, low energy computing, and sensor networks are needed for monitoring soil quality, plant growth processes, animal activity, pollution and the movement and interaction of people within the local environment. Mobile communication and geoinformatics are needed for aggregating sensory data and projecting it in real time onto maps. Complex systems analysis, low energy computing, and machine learning are needed for detecting patterns to allow prediction and the shaping of ongoing social and biological processes, and novel user interfaces are needed to make embedded technologies accessible and usable without requiring sophisticated background or training. The project will be highly innovative because it opens up a new application area for a whole range of ICT technologies and because it generates deep challenges that will push the state of the art for each technology as well as their integration into a complex distributed system.

the importance of bees in the corridors
*introduction of bees/honey ⇒ stands for transformation in habits, in society
*honey (analysis) ⇒ can give diverse info on the habitat, on the available plants and food (urban agriculture) in the perimeter of the hive (connected OpenGreens)
*honey analysis ⇒ compare the polluants in the different OpenGreens of the corridor

corridors as a social sculpture
*social sculpture ref. Beuys: The idea being that every decision you make should be thought out and attempt to make or contribute to a work of art which in the end is society. This point of view invites followers to humble themselves by realizing that they are an important part of a whole not only an individual. (link with the honeybee colony)
*corridors as a social sculpture ⇒ community, bottom up (the social, cultural and political function and potential of art) occupy public space.
*potential of art to bring about revolutionary change (Beuys) transformation (metaphore = honey)
*affect environmental and social change through this project
*participating gardens ⇒ active creative expressions of the participating inhabitants, communities, neighborhoods
*social awareness raising : human activity that strives to (re)structure and (re)shape society and the environment
*knowledger building of cities as complex ecosystems

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monitoring of the transparant hive colony

bee monitoring technology
The word ‘beehacker’ has been entered into the lexicon of popular culture. A beehacker has been defined as:
(noun) A beekeeper who uses digital tools and technology to help monitor and manage a collection of hives.
Also: bee hacker and —beehacking.

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monitoring the bees in the transparant beehive, sept.2012

what can we monitor?
Which sensors do we need for it? And Where do we have to integrate them?
visual: webcams inside hive (infrared) or outside behind window
heath sensitive camera to spot the ‘heather bees’
sound / vibrations (contactmicrophones – piezo’s, other small microphones)
temperature inside / outside
humidity inside / outside
airpollution / Co2
moving of the bee-blob/nucleus inside of the hive (very important in winter)
number of bees flying in/out (summer)
landing of the bees on the landing strip before the flighthole (theremin? Aluminiumfoil?)
weight of the hive (growth of the colony, hive filling up with honey)

graph representing the humidity data in the beehive#3 at okno, from august 2011 to february 2012

graph representing the temperature data in the beehive#3 at okno, from august 2011 to february 2012

temperature and humidity
Brood Chamber & Environmental Monitoring. Warming up and cooling down.
Temperature and humidity inside and outside the hive are important indicators of hive health. A design for an environmental monitoring system is proposed able to log temperature and humidity inside the hive brood nest and measure temperature, humidity, and solar activity outside the hive.
Mammals shiver to generate heat. Likewise, some worker bees have a role as ‘heater bees’ [TAUT2008] that can dislocate their wings from their flight muscles and flex those large flight muscles to generate heat. These heater bees are easily identified in images taken by heat sensitive cameras because the temperature of their thorax can reach over 109 degrees! This contrasts with the normal temperature of the brood nest of 92-98 degree Fahrenheit. Even when the temperature outside is below freezing, the center of a healthy hive can be 92 degrees.
If the outside temperature falls below 54 degrees F., bees cannot fly and they will be confined to the hive. If the bees either run out of honey or it is so cold that they cannot crawl from the edge of their warm cluster to the honey (below 50 degrees F, they cannot move), they will starve or freeze.
Cooling in the hot summer is just as important. Wax softens if the hive temperature exceeds 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Beside structural problems, this negatively impacts vibration-based communication between bees inside the dark hive[TAUTZ2008]. In the hot summer, mammals sweat and pant to cool off. Bees collect water, spread it over the comb, encourage evaporation by mechanically creating air currents inside their hive to cool it down. In both cases, the evaporation of water into vapor provides cooling.
Research [FERR08] suggests that temperature of the hive increases immediately before a swarm occurs and drops below ambient temperature at the time of the swarm itself.
Humidity inside the hive and outside can influence how quickly the water in nectar is evaporated and transformed into honey. It may also indicate environments that favor fungal (Chalkbrood) growths that can devastate hives.
more info on:

Do not completely seal the hive off. Always leave the varroa-drawer out. The bees produce moisture and CO2 and they will suffocate if there is not sufficient air circulation and ventilation.

solar activity
The prediction of when flowers bloom (nectar flows) is more accurately estimated by counting the number of sun-days than by looking on a calendar. Solar activity also indicates how many days bees have available to forage for honey.

vibration based communication
I’m an electronics engineer doing a similar project. My motivation is on automated species detection and detecting the early signs of swarming. I find it’s easier to do sound recordings and analyse them later on a PC using Audacity or Matlab. Alternatively I’m sure you’ll find an IPhone/Android app for spectrum analysis.
If you want to build a real-time spectrum device, I would consider an arrangement of analogue filter banks, comparators and LEDs. Quite doable for an amateur.
For your information, I have found, the dominant frequency is approximately 220-240Hz followed by the first harmonic at 440 – 480Hz. According to literature this corresponds to the wing-beat frequency which varies depending on whether the bee is flying or stationary. Moreover, accordingly to unconfirmed reports, a newly hatched bee will have a higher wing-beat frequency due to incomplete forming of the wings.
Queen piping is an interesting sound; I have recordings which place in the 400Hz – 4KHz range. Sounding much like a duck.

hive and colony weight
The purpose is to build a low cost scale for monitoring the weight of the increasing honey over the foraging season. In the meantime we can also monitor the growth of the colony.
A nice DIY example can be found here: : the portable hive scale.

preliminary research
city honeybees – piezo recordings with hive 03 at OKNO, Brussels – June 2011
2 piezo sensors were inserted into the hive: one in between the comb frames, and one right in front of the entrance.
The piezo’s were connected to a small mixing panel, in order to normalize the soundlevel.
In the video we can see rather well how the sound is connected to the bees’ actions. Purpose is to experiment further with piezo sensors connected to the hive, and to make a soundperformance together with the bees.

bee monitoring workshops
(theoretical, practical) to design a monitored beehive:

During 2 workshops in february and march 2011, we discussed a digital survey of the honeybees. Beekeepers, artists and engineers joined their knowledge to come up with a design that offers a realtime, online monitoring of the beehive.
A swarm was put into the hive on may 4th 2011. Since than 2 webcams record the colonies’ behaviour. Simultaneously the data of inside and outside temperature, humidity and Co2 level are logged.

Bee Monitoring Research in the OpenGreens
The enhanced beehive is a gateway to a honeybee colony and its environment. Numerous possibilities for observing the bees’ behavior and important measured values from within the hive are provided as well as measuring data for the climate, soil, and vegetation in the honeybee colony’s direct environment. Storing all of the data over a period of several months allows not alone a very well detailed observation but also the ability to discover and follow long-term trends of complex relations between the superorganism and its environment.
The life in and around the hive is monitored by many measurement systems.
Two webcams , equipped with infrared leds, make it possible to see in the dark. The monitor the movement of bees over the frames in the hive.
Since the hive was populated with the swarm (may 4th 2011), the 2 webcams record at 15 fps the life in the hive. Comb building, movements and action.
In the top of the frames (in the hive body) there are 3 temperature sensors capturing the temperature in the beehive, as well as a CO2 sensor and a sensors recording the humidity in the hive.
Outside of the hive, the temperature and the humidity of the direct environment are also measured. The webcams are connected to a PC board that is configured as a streaming server. It makes the images of the hive in real time available on the internet. The data from the different sensors are also logged and available in realtime.

analysis of the video data collection
Custom Software Video Analysis
Since may 4th 2011 we record at 15fps with 2 webcams, and we will continue the recordings till the start of the new bee season beginning of march.
This will give us a total of 10 months of recordings, which we will process as follows:
Videos: 160x speed-up ⇒ 24h becomes 9 minutes
1 month = 04:30 h ⇒ 10 months will be 45 hours.
Once we have processed all video material in 45 hours, we’ll run a last change-of-speed process to finish with a total of 24 hours. This means that we will finally represent the colony’s season (10 months) in the timespan of 1 day (24 hours).

A possible research of the images could include the relationship between the outside t° and the inside t° and the behaviour of the bees. With the start of the cold weather we discovered that the bees are not visible anymore on the outer comb-frame (the one closest to the camera). They go all to the inner comb-frames to form their ‘cluster’ for hibernation. Once the t° rises again, the bees spread over the different comb-frames.
Also the relation between the changing light density/frequency and the bee activity is a subject for research based on the video images.

analyse and recode the video images
analyse stills
analyse tekst, data – other input
position in the image (bees)
position in the garden (GPS OpenGreens)
enlarge the image (or part of the image) to maximum resolution and scan each pixel’s brightness
change brightness of pixels in realtime according available realtime data info
the higher the — the faster the — or other relations between realtime signals
render the invisible space of data flows, give it a structure, poetics and politics.

sonification of the data, information mapping

Apis mellifera carnica – okno observationhive#03 – testmovie for sonification

Musician Joeri Bultheel is testing the sonification of the bee colony behaviour in Supercollider. Beneath his neural networks-patch, in which the visual information from Processing determines which pattern-sequence of the four sequences stored in the connection-weights is being played. In a later stage of the project certain visual states would also be able to trigger a certain amount of noise into the connection-weights to create novel patterns based on the stored ones. The incoming visual date would determine what sequence is being played, how much it differs from the original one (by perturbation of the connection-weights through the use of noise) and also when the current changed network is skeletonized (is considered to be the actual new connection-weights-structure ). In this way an ever-changing, not-too-direct musical production mechanism controlled by the visual data of the bees can be realized. Communication between Processing (openCV) and SuperCollider is done by using OSC.

sonification of the recorded webcam-data in supercollider and processing, Joeri Bultheel

We make more tests on bees and sound.
From may 4th, 2011 till now beehive #03 at OKNO is monitored in a continuous way. Several sensors (t° inside/outside, humidy in/out and C02), but also 2 webcams at 15fps.
With the webcam movies we are doing some experiments on image/sound relation. The movielinks below are an excerpt of a concatenation of time-fragments over the bee colony season. The total movie is 4hours and 30 minutes, and documetns the building of the nest from the moment the colony was put into the hive.
Now we are trying to find a sound which represents the volatility and the lightness of the bees, a sound which respects the bees behaviour.
Joeri is trying some sonification patches in a neural networks supercollider patch, opposed to a patch that works with blob recognition an where the image/sound relation is more obvious.

water worksessions

As part of a continuing ecological media art program, two practical workshops deal with environmental sensing. First Jonas Z. (SK/PL/NL) is building up an automatic water control system for the rooftop garden. Then we look into further ways of monitoring the beehives as part of a larger artistic research project. Both workshops are happening in the OKNO rooftop gardens. For participation please contact us.

1. A water management system for the rooftop garden.With OSMOGAS (open source modular gardening systems) Jonas Z. is building easy deployable modular systems for gardens. It consists of modules with evironmental measurement sensors (air pollution, humidity, temperature, UV, wind, pH, …), and digitally controlled switches for water pumps, lights, fog-generators. The project wants to offer a cheap, and versatile system that all of us can setup easily, according to changing circumstances. As one of the first applications, we are building a water management system for the garden. Yes! it is art, but it will work!

2. The bee monitoring project.In the city centre, OKNO is working on 2 rooftop gardens hosting 10 beehives in total, good for aproximately 400.000 city honeybees. The hives in each of the gardens are populated with Apis mellifera carnica. The 2 gardens are linked by the bees’ overlapping foraging territories and flightroutes, thus creating a biological corridor in the city. The workshop is focusing on an enhanced monitoring of these bee colonies during their summer activities.

the beeArcHive bees in the drying room

TIK festival : Brussel Deze Week

TIK festival : the RAW and the COOKED

In the context of the TIK festival (Time Inventors’ Kabinet) we host a round table THE RAW AND THE COOKED on urban agriculture and other bottom up solutions for future cities. What is the commitment of the people behind these ecological projects and communities?

Diverse topics will be discussed :
urban voids, open source, DIY, appropriation of space, guerilla gardening, water, food sovereignty, GMO, information, sharing of knowledge, bio diversity, (city) ecology, community building, urban planning, urban agriculture, the food chain between the city and the countryside, bio-corridors, … and many more — and what art has to do with all these initiatives.

The ‘format’ for the round table discussions goes as follows:
Setting : we start at 3pm, we will share around the long table at the meeting-place of the festival center @ okno. During the presentations, we will serve homemade snacks and drinks.
To open the discussion, we will ask all the brussels organisations to present their projects in a very short, condensed way. We ask you to focus on one specific quality of the project, an element that is very important for you in the process of realisation.

the “Brussel’s “projects are:
– barbara van dyck / field liberation (on food sovereignty)
– jeroen verhoeven / bral (on guerilla gardening)
– stephane Kampelmann / centre d’ecologie urbaine (on awaress raising and information)
– sofie van bruystegem / citymind (on water)
– trudo engels and loes / nadine (on vertical gardening and other strange solutions)
– filippo dattola / potager-toit (on community gardens and community building)
– aurelie de smet / urban planner (on urban voids and appropriation by the citizens)

After a short break, we will ask the TIK artists to comment on the above presentations. TIK memebers represent art/social organisations working around similar topics as the presented ones.
We ask following people to comment on your presentations, to start the discussion.
To the people below: please comment on 1 quality that struck you the most in the presentations, and tell us why. How do you do it? differently? the same way? why?

comments by:
– verena kuni (Goethe University Frankfurt) ecology, bio diversity, time, art
– kyd campbell (berlin), eco-artist DIY
– lenka dolanova (praag) eco-curator, beekeeper
– lorena lozana (Gijon, Spain – ecolab laboral) biologist and artist
– reni hofmueller (graz, austria) gestettnerin and eco-artist, satellite specialist
– stefan (ljubljana, slovenia) architect, artist with DIY electronics and community gardens
– ralf schreiber (koln) eco electronics artist
– christian faubel (koln) neural networks specialist, inspired by robo-kids
– stefanie wuschitz (miss balthazar) eco-artist en DIY
and of course the whole OKNO-crew, and especially Annemie, Guy en Luea.


TIK festival : the BeeArcHive

Bee observation Installation : stories from the Drying Room

In “The Bee Archives or Stories from the Drying Room” the city honeybees are the main performers. The sonification of the bees’ activities creates a real-time subtle soundtrack for the life in the hive. An OpenStructure observation beehive displays the organisation of the community and the collective decision making both among bees and artists.
The basic idea was to make an observation beehive and to describe the life of a bee colony with the sound. There are contact microphones that pick up all the activity in the hive – the buzz, when the bees walk over, or fly against them. The monitoring of the bees means to look at time in a different way, due to the ecological process of the bee season. This process then becomes the monitoring of the bee season. The spectator – even when s/he spends only 5 minutes here – will see the progress. In the morning the activity will be different than in the evening. If there is a sunshine, there is much more activity.
The process is completely transparent and one can see everything that happens. But for me, the first thing is working with living matter as a source of an art project. In the scientific observation of a bee colony, you would not do it  like this. This beehive is not so practical, it is more like a sculpture with bees in it. You try to make it the best for the bees and for art. There’s only one negative point, it is a little bit demanding that they have to go climb via the inserted tube. It becomes problematic when they have to carry a weight, like bringing out a dead bee.
The bees are good bio-indicators, they inform us on the status or our environment. When they enter via the tube, you can see on the color of the pollen which flowers they visited. Most of the people are quite surprised when you say you keep bees in the city, and the first question is always – where do they find the food? It relates to a wider notion of environment and biodiversity. You can also see the bee colony as a representation of a self-organizing community, with horizontal, non-hierarchical collective decision making.

the BeeArcHive : they did it!

A long story, the bee arcHive stories. A book beeHive that over time transformed into an OpenStructures bee arcHive. A subtle sonorisation of the life ij the hive.
Yesterday afternoon and night we’ve transfered young bees from 3 different hives into the sculpture hive. Late, in the evening, we’ve brought them a beautiful queen with some more adult foraging bees. They were all very exited. Flying around, bumping into each other and into the glass.
The next morning, none of them has found the exit yet. The tube. A 90 degrees obstacle. The only way out to the foraging fields.
But with a little help from the beekeeper – a simple little trick to make them focus on the spot of the tube by obscuring the rest of the hive – finally the first bee crossed the tunnel! An emotional moment. And once one bee has trespassed, she can tell her sisters. In no time the tunnel was filled with bees, looking for the outside world. A lot of buzz and excitement.
Beautiful to see, a nice story … to be continued …

time / shapes

Patterns are everywhere in nature. Where does this order and regularity come from? It creates itself. The patterns we see come from self-organization. Whether living or non-living, scientists have found that there is a pattern-forming tendency inherent in the basic structure and processes of nature, so that from a few simple themes, and the repetition of simple rules, endless beautiful variations can arise. From soap bubbles to honeycombs or delicate shell patterns, Phillip Ball (science-writer) explains how these patterns are self-made and why similar shapes and structures may be found in very different settings, orchestrated by nothing more than simple physical forces.
Philip Ball – Shapes