Cambridge-based sensors company Zettlex usually makes position and speed sensors for applications such as armoured fighting vehicles, industrial robots, oil and gas installations and radar systems. The company received an enquiry about a sensor to measure the motion of bumble-bees, it was intrigued to say the least. Mark Howard, general manager said: “At first I thought it might be one of my pals playing a practical joke, but when we found out more about the bumble-bee hive application, we were very keen to be involved.”

Nik Sargent, a local bumble-bee researcher was carrying out research on hive activity and needed to monitor and count the bumble-bees as they entered and left the hive.  He states: “There was a big problem with all the traditional sensor techniques – they were simply too big and bulky. However, the great thing about our technology was that we were able to use a position sensor that was so light and sensitive it could easily be activated by a bumble-bee. Because the sensors are inductive they are not adversely affected by the outdoor conditions such as dust, pollen and honey residue.”

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