The Audi Environmental Foundation follows the motto “Safeguarding the future: Audi takes on responsibility towards society, the environment and the national economy.”
The Audi Environmental Foundation has been supporting the HOBOS bee research project at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg since 2015. As part of this partnership, a new high-tech beehive (Smart HOBOS) has been developed and constructed.
Dr. Rüdiger Recknagel (Managing Director of the Audi Environmental Foundation), Prof. Dr. Hubert Waltl (Member of the Board of Production of Audi AG and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Audi Environmental Foundation), Christoph Hillenbrand (District President of Upper Bavaria), Prof. Dr. Barbara Sponholz (Vice President of the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg) and bee researcher Prof. Dr. Jürgen Tautz (Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg) inaugurated the new bee research station on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016, on the premises of the Audi production facility in Münchsmünster.
Complex observation hive
The high-tech beehive Smart HOBOS is a newly developed, cutting-edge observation hive. This is the third HOBOS location, after the colonies in Würzburg and Bad Schwartau. Smart HOBOS is based on the experiences gather from the HOBOS stations in Würzburg and Bad Schwartau, whose colonies are housed in conventional bee boxes (Langstroth hives).
The new high-tech beehive Smart HOBOS allows honeybees to build their nest without being disturbed. The bees work in the dark, with infrared lighting, multiple cameras and numerous sensors making it possible to observe their activities around the clock.
Jürgen Tautz explains: “A fundamental problem in behavioral research is the uncertainty as to the extent to which the observer himself influences the phenomenon being observed. In the case of the bee colony, this means observing the bees with natural or artificial light and in specially constructed beehives. A bee nest built out in the open, observed in a dark environment using remote-controlled technology, provides completely novel insights, which can be accessed by anyone via HOBOS.”
The beehive is located in a wooden house that was developed especially for this project on the premises of the Audi production facility in Münchsmünster, east of Ingolstadt. A robotic arm that can be rotated 360° is installed in the same room. It is equipped with infrared and thermographic cameras, a microphone and several 3D sensors in order to document the hustle and bustle in and around the beehive 24 hours a day. Observers are presented with never-before-seen glimpses into the combs of a beehive without disturbing the bees in the process.
Thanks to cutting-edge technology, it is also possible to take thermographic pictures, thus providing entirely new perspectives of the individual bees and the bee colony as a whole. Furthermore, modern devices document outside influences such as humidity, temperature and incident light. This makes it possible to draw valuable conclusions about the bees’ behavior.
Thus, this innovative approach grants deep, unprecedented insight into the bee superorganism. “One of the objectives of this project is to gain new knowledge, which ideally could help to relieve the stress placed on bees with current apicultural practices,” says Tautz.
On July 11th, 2016, a bee colony moved into the new high-tech beehive Smart HOBOS on the premises of the Audi production facility in Münchsmünster.