Dr. Meghan Milbrath, an extension and outreach specialist at Michigan State University, and Tammy Horn Potter, Kentucky State Apiarist, have designed a new app for the development of beekeeping skills through the management of virtual honey bee colonies. The name is HoneyBEE, short for Beekeeping Electronic Education. HoneyBEE will be a real-life simulation game that will enable players to experience the joys and challenges of keeping a hive in a variety of environments. Players and students can experience the joys of beekeeping and gain insight into real challenges without losing a lot of money, breaking a sweat, and/or getting stung. Players will start with one colony and must provide ‘care’ to the colony to keep it healthy and for it to grow. Players will learn how to monitor health indicators and will have options to respond to multiple scenarios. Players will be able to choose multiple locations and scenarios and can challenge themselves by trying different management strategies.
Successful players will have hive products that can be sold — earning the player virtual money that can be used to purchase more colonies and more equipment and grow their operation. Beekeepers who don’t successfully take care of their bees will have their colonies die, and they can start the game over.
• Beginner beekeepers can try a variety of different scenarios – learning all the lingo, equipment and skills needed to successfully keep bees, accelerating their path to becoming successful beekeepers.
• Beekeeping clubs can use the game along with their beginner beekeeping schools to provide extra education.
• Teachers can use HoneyBEE to teach kids about bees, beekeeping and agriculture.
• Existing beekeepers can use it to try new models or simulate different strategies.
• Anyone can use it for fun – while getting more insight as to what it takes to be a beekeeper. Benefit: The game will be based on real honey bee management data and can be integrated into beekeeping and science education. Factors such as pests, pathogens, weather and habitat will all affect the virtual beekeeping operation, and the beekeepers can try different scenarios to find management strategies that work to keep colonies successful.
Need: Honey bees are struggling, and entering the beekeeping industry can be difficult for the public. This app will educate the public on the issues surrounding honey bees and beekeeping. Many people have recently heard about beekeeping, and want to get started, but they underestimate the work and costs involved, or may not enjoy it. This app will allow them to experience the art, joys and challenges of keeping bees before spending money, getting hot or stung, and it will be another tool for them to learn how to better care for their animals.
Meghan shared the idea at the Bee Audacious conference in California. John Miller heard about it over lunch and *ordered* Meghan and Tammy to go create the funding mechanism to get it off the ground. They have started a GoFundMe page. The funds will be used to pay the costs to develop an app for one year, travel, licenses and distribution. The funds are needed by Feb. 14, 2017.
Dr. Meghan Milbrath will guide the work. She is a beekeeper and academic specialist for honey bee research and extension, and she will work directly with the game developer to ensure that the game is both super fun to play and based on real data. https://www.gofundme.com/pdhoneybee