2017 Data and Weekly Updates

Running Graphs

Western Piedmont 2017 Hive Scale Graph

East Piedmont 2017 Hive Scale Graph

Wake County 2017 Hive Scale Graph

Durham County 2017 Hive Scale Graph

Central Piedmont 2017 Hive Scale Graph

Coastal NC 2017 Hive Scale Graph

Weekly Updates

November - December

September - October

August 2nd - August 31st

July 26th - August 2nd

July 19th - July 26th

July 12th - July 19th

July 5th - July 12th

June 28th - July 5th

June 20th - June 28th

June 14th - June 20th

June 7th - June 14th

May 31st - June 7th

May 24th - May 31st

May 17th - May 24th

May 9th - May 17th

May 3rd - May 9th

April 25th - May 3rd

April 18th - April 25th

April 11th - April 18th

April 1st - April 11th

Project Launch


Hive Scale Graph Central Piedmont Nov-Dec

Hive Scale Graph Wake County Nov-Dec

Hive Scale Graph East Piedmont Nov-Dec

The past month and a half it has certainly cooled off and with that, bee activity has dropped off as the girls hunker down for winter. Not surprisingly, the weight is flat or dropping in all of the hives except for those who are feeding fondant or sugar water.

ESA PosterWell the bee season flew by before we knew it. I got consumed by conference season where I got to talk with other researchers, beekeepers, and bee enthusiasts about the project! I have shared some of these presentations on the website from the 65th Entomlogical Society of America meeting and a general presentation I presented at some of the local county beekeeping clubs. For each county club I included maps of apiaries in that specific county with approval from those beekeepers. In the attached powerpoint pdf I have removed these maps and only included landscape maps for the Bayer Bee care center and a colleague’s map from the coast for comparison.

At this time of the year I will only be posting graphs monthly or bi-monthly but stay tuned for updated content for any new presentations I give and any new questions I hear from beekeepers!

Happy Holidays!


Hive Scale Chart West Piedmont Sept-Oct

Hive Scale Chart Central Piedmont Sept-Oct

Hive Scale Chart Wake County Sept-Oct

Hive Scale Chart East Piedmont Sept-Oct

Looking back at September and August I decided to split things up by region rather than weight class. It looks like there wasn’t a very strong aster flow this year across any of the counties. There are a few hives that gained some weight in September (Nash-1 and Wake-8) but overall it seems like activity really slowed down. Some folks really started pushing supplemented food at this time, most clearly seen in the Mecklenberg hives.

Here at the Bee Center we saw our golden rod flower much earlier in the year than anticipated and it seems this trend was also seen across the region. It will be interesting to follow all of these hives through the winter although as temperatures drop below freezing, we might get some inconsistent readings. These scales are designed to shut off at temperatures below 32F to protect the hardware so during periods of sustained below-freezing temperatures, we might start to see some data gaps across all the hives. Bundle up!

August 2nd - August 31st

Now that the major flows have ended, I have switched to monthly updates rather than weekly updates. However, there will still be new content updated throughout the month, especially as I get more time to play around with the land characterization! But here is the month report for 47 of the hives grouped by weight in the following weight classes: 1) Greater than 140 lbs, 2) 125-140 lbs, 3) 100-125 lbs, 4) 75-100 lbs, 5) 50-75 lbs, 6) Less than 50 lbs.


Hive Scale Chart Greater Than 140 Lbs



Hive Scale Chart Between 125-140 Lbs



Hive Scale Chart Between 100-125 Lbs



Hive Scale Chart Between 75-100 Lbs



Hive Scale Chart Between 50-75 Lbs



Hive Scale Chart Less Than 50 Lbs


I can tell you the first thing that jumped out to me was the weight gain in some of the eastern counties: Halifax 2 and 3, Nash 2, and Wilson-1! Let’s look at the hives in these three counties:


Hive Scale Chart Halifax, Nash, Wilson Counties


So what is unique for these hives? Location, location, location! If we take a look at the land cover assessments from the USDA 2016 Crop Data Layer (you can check out what’s been grown in your area too at https://nassgeodata.gmu.edu/CropScape/), we see a pattern:


1 Mile Composition



3 Mile Composition


I would like to remind everyone that the land characterization is based on what was planted in 2016, the 2017 crop data layer won’t be available until early next year in 2018. So this is not necessarily what was planted this year but it can give us a good idea of how intensively farmed or developed the surrounding area is and what sort of crops have been grown there!

FlowerWith that being said, compared to the other apiary locations, these hives consistently have the most cotton and the most soybean in the surrounding 1 mile or 3 mile area compared to the other counties; all except for Nash-3, which you can see did not experience the same weight gain that the others did. Halifax beekeeper Neil Roberson first reported the cotton bloom in mid-July, and Nash county beekeeper Greg Wolgemuth reported the first bloom in late-July. These beekeepers swear by the cotton bloom and for good reason! For those of you who are not familiar with cotton or who have never thought of cotton as a good source of nectar (I know I didn’t!), you might be surprised to learn that cotton can provide a bounty of nectar for an extended period of time! Bees can access nectar both through the flower sepals as well as through extra-floral nectaries around the base of the flower. Cotton blooms for 6-8 weeks at a time but the extra-floral nectaries are available a few weeks before the actual bloom, so cotton has the potential to serve as a nectar source for even longer! If you are as blown away as I was to learn about this, you can read more about cotton specifically in North Carolina at the NCState Extension website https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/cotton-information/the-cotton-plant.

We will have to further explore the relationship of some of these landscape categories and weight gains throughout the season so stay tuned as I dive deeper into the land cover assessments!

July 26th - August 2nd

Only 23 scales to report on this week in the following weight classes: 1) greater than 130 lbs, 2) 100-130 lbs, and 3) Less than 100 lbs.

Week 17 Hive Scale Research Less Than 100 lbs

Week 17 Hive Scale Research 100-130 lbs

Week 17 Hive Scale Research Greater Than 130 lbs

As we enter August I will be interested to see when the aster flow begins but up until then we see little to no weight change on a weekly basis. I’ve been working in the field a lot and haven’t had time to dive into the maps yet but will start compiling all of the percentages for the different locations and share some of these other projects I’ve been so preoccupied with!

July 19th - July 26th

Only 20 scales to report on this week in the following weight classes: 1) greater than 130 lbs, 2) 100-130 lbs, and 3) Less than 100 lbs.

Bee Hive Graph Greater Than 130 Lbs

Bee Hive Between 100-130 Lbs

Bee Hive Graph Less Than 100 Lbs

Once again, very little weight changes to report on this week as the dearth continues. I will be updating the running graphs to see how things have progressed through the month of July so keep an eye out for that just above these weekly updates!

Well with very little nectar available this time of year, we’re seeing a lot of robbing activity. Allen and I were working the hives down the road and quickly found ourselves in the midst of a robbing frenzy! We removed a frame and set it aside to give us more room to work and within minutes it was completely covered with bees!

Bees on honeycomb
Beekeeper working with a hive

This is certainly a stressful time of year for the bees and the plants here so the bees will resort to robbing for any drop of honey they can find! I was talking to a beekeeper at the workshop who had been working with hive scales and said he saw a 60 lb weight drop in a matter of a few days as neighboring bees robbed the hive out.

July 12th - July 19th

What a week of exciting scale discussions! Last Friday I gave an hour long workshop talking about the project and ended up staying long after to continue the conversations about the direction of this project. This week we had a group of Brazilian bee researchers visiting the bee care center where I was able to share this work with them. One of the bee researchers in the room, Claudia Ines Silva at University of Sao Paulo, just so happened to be a seasoned palynologist working on creating a pollen data base for the diversity of plants they have in Brazil. The database is incredibly comprehensive and could certainly help provide us with a model for future pollen work here in North Carolina, the URL is http://rcpol.org.br/en/homepage/. If you haven’t read the pollen identification special feature, you can see our first attempt at engaging in this sort of project, a rudimentary attempt at best. A lot of people at the NCSBA/SCSBA workshop were asking about pollen identification and it could certainly be used to get a better measure of landscape differences between apiaries. Between these two workshops there have been so many great discussions that I will try and capture in a separate special feature where you can see the presentation I gave to these groups.

Now getting into the routine weight report! I’m afraid these reports might be getting a little repetitive and at this time of year maybe even a little boring. Here are the weight classes this week: 1) greater than 145 lbs, 2) 100-145 lbs, 3) Less than 100 lbs.

Week 15 Bee Hive Scale Graph Greater Than 140 Lbs

Week 15 Bee Hive Scale Graph 110 - 140 Lbs

Week 15 Bee Hive Scale Graph 80 - 110 Lbs

Week 15 Bee Hive Scale Graph Less Than 80 Lbs

As predicted, not much going on in the way of floral sources. Martin 1, 4, and 6 have been moved into Durham county and are now under my care and involved in a study feeding them food dye in sugar water twice weekly (as you probably could have guessed from the graph)! I spent a lot of time with those ladies this week in addition to 12 others out there and was amazed by the activity on some of the neighboring plants.

Bee boxes in a flower field
Bee in a group of flowers
Bee pollinating a flower

Annie Kreuger with an active bee box

So still some forage for them to make use of this time of year, sumac is certainly busy with bee activity. Hopefully the aster flow will come on strong in the coming months although the golden rod in our garden has already started blooming!

July 5th - July 12th

So for this week we only have 21 scales to report on! A lot of people are enjoying their summer vacations and were unable to upload this week. None the less, I have split the hives up into three groups: 1) greater than 145 lbs, 2) 100-145 lbs, 3) Less than 100 lbs.

Week 14 Bee Hive Scale Graph Greater Than 145 Lbs

Week 14 Bee Hive Scale Graph 100-145 Lbs

Week 14 Bee Hive Scale Graph Less Than 100 Lbs

As we’ve entered the summer dearth, you can see several beekeepers have resumed supplementally feeding their hives. Nash-1, Nash-2, and Wake-7 are clear examples of this. Other than those three, everything else is fairly stagnant or even losing weight.

Well I’m off to Winston-Salem for the North Carolina/South Carolina State beekeeping meeting to hear your thoughts on the project and what insight we’ve gained throughout these past few months! Looking forward to hearing from you and I will report back on some of the discussions in a special feature next week. Stay tuned!

June 28th - July 5th

This week we have 33 scales to report on which I have split into the following 4 groups: 1) greater than 145 lbs, 2) 100-145 lbs, 3) 75-100 lbs, and 4) Less than 75 lbs.

Week 13 Bee Hive Scale Graph Greater Than 145 Lbs

Week 13 Bee Hive Scale Graph 100-145 Lbs

Week 13 Bee Hive Scale Graph 75-100 Lbs

Week 13 Bee Hive Scale Graph Less Than 75 Lbs

So it looks like that second wave of the nectar flow has died off now as we enter July, with most colonies staying flat or slowly losing weight. It looks like we are entering the summer dearth!

I am working on compiling data now to take a deeper dive into what’s been happening the past few months but to start, I’ve been looking at honey extractions. As beekeepers have updated their management notes, I’ve been trying to keep track of whose doing what! So this week, I want to highlight Johnston-2, proudly owned by May Markoff. May is using a flow hive super so she has extracted several times in the past few months as her bees have filled frames in. I came out to her apiary to help her get the scale set up and had the chance to admire some of her amazing hive art! If you are interested in hearing more about her experiences using the flow hive, she will be sharing all of her insights at the next 5 County Beekeeping Club meeting on July 18th!

So let’s take a look at the weight data from the beginning of May until the end of June:

Week 13 Johnston Bee Hive Scale Graph

The first extraction was on May 29th, where 3 frames were drained resulting in a ~21 lb weight drop! On June 11th, 2 frames were extracted showing only a 7 lb weight drop before extracting all frames on June 27th resulting in a ~37 lb weight drop. So overall, 65 lb of honey came off of the hive!

Open Hive Box
Open Hive Box

June 20th - June 28th

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I will be leading a workshop on the project Friday July 14th 3:34-4:45 pm in the Gaines 2 meeting room at the North Carolina State Beekeeping Meeting in Winston Salem! I would love to hear people’s thoughts on the project so hope to see you there! Check out the full agenda on their website https://www.ncbeekeepers.org/education/statewide-conferences/ncsba-2017-summer-conference

This week I want to do things a little differently. Since the past few weeks have been a little all over the place with hives gaining weight one week and losing it the next week I want to look at 3 weeks of data in addition to just looking at this week. So first, for this week we have 33 scales to report on which I have split into the following 4 groups: 1) greater than 145 lbs, 2) 100-145 lbs, 3) 80-100 lbs, and 4) Less than 80 lbs.

Week 12 Bee Hive Research Greater Than 145 Lbs

Week 12 Bee Hive Research 110-145 Lbs

Week 12 Bee Hive Research Graph 80-110 Lbs

Week 12 Bee Hive Research Less than 80 Lbs

So overall pretty flat again this week with maybe some slight declines but overall very little change. Now what’s been the overarching trends for the month of June?

Week 12 Bee Hive Research Greater than 150 Lbs

Week 12 Bee Hive Research 125-150 Lbs

Week 12 Bee Hive Research Graph 100-125 Lbs

Week 12 Bee Hive Research Graph 75-100 Lbs

Week 12 Bee Hive Research Less than 75 Lbs

So some very interesting patterns emerging here..Looks like a lot of the hives started slowing down early June but found something to capitalize on a few weeks later so by June 15th, a lot of the hives started gaining weight again. This reflects what I was thinking week to week! For week 9, May 30th-June 6th, I thought it looked pretty clear that the spring flow had ended. The follow week, June 6-13, looked pretty similar but then the following week, June 13-20 showed this upswing. I’m guessing the amount of rain we’ve gotten has had something to do with this but I’m really surprised by this and would love to hear if anyone has any thoughts or seen anything new blooming! My colleague Morgan has identified some plants that might be a potential food source:

Bee on a flower
  • Trees
    • Sourwood and persimmon are the only ones I can think of (haven’t observed persimmon, the flowers are very indiscrete but the timing should be right)
  • Shrubs
    • Elderberry
    • Sumac
    • Privet
  • Asters
    • Beggar-ticks
    • Thistles
    • Joe-pye weed (just starting)
    • Knotweed
    • Sunflowers
    • Other asters with small white flowers that I can’t name. I haven’t yet seen any goldenrods (outside of our garden) but I expect to see them soon.
  • Other herbs:
    • Clovers
    • Milkweeds
    • Partridge-pea
    • Bee balms
    • Horsemint
    • Buckwheat
    • Cucurbids
    • Sage

June 14th - June 20th

This week I had 30 scales to report on which I have split into the following 4 groups: 1) greater than 145 lbs, 2) 100-145 lbs, 3) 80-100 lbs, and 4) Less than 80 lbs.

Week 11 Hive Scale Research Graph Greater Than 145 Lbs

Week 11 Hive Scale Research Graph 100-145 Lbs

Week 11 Hive Scale Research Graph 80-100 Lbs

Week 11 Hive Scale Research Graph Less Than 80 Lbs

So this week is a different story from last week! Instead of weights dropping, a lot of people are seeing weight gains. Johnston-2 and Granville-1 in the 100-145 lb group both gained around 15 lbs!

The past few days we’ve seen lots of precipitation so let’s revisit the empty equipment:

Week 11 Hive Scale Research Graph Empty

I am amazed by a 2 lb weight fluctuation on both June 17th and 18th and very interested in better understanding this phenomenon. I am starting several other projects in the following week that will hopefully provide more insight into weight changes from changing environmental conditions, as well as general insight into food storage, stay tuned!

I also want to announce that my colleague, Allen, and I will be attending the NCSBA/SCSBA meeting next month and will be leading a workshop on electronic hive scales to discuss what we have seen so far with this project! Once I have the specific date and time I will be sure to let everyone know. I am very interested in getting new perspectives and hearing feedback from those involved and those who may have been thinking about weight data and following the project. Hope to see you there!

June 7th - June 14th

This week I had 33 scales to report on which I have split into the following 4 groups: 1) greater than 145 lbs, 2) 110-145 lbs, 3) 80-110 lbs, and 4) Less than 80 lbs.

Week 10 Bee Hive Scale Graph Greater Than 145 Lbs

Week 10 Bee Hive Scale Graph 110-145 Lbs

Week 10 Bee Hive Scale Graph 80-110 Lbs

Week 10 Bee Hive Scale Graph Less Than 80 Lbs

So this week the trend is either flat or declining overall, except for some slight weight gains for Johnston-2, Caswell-2, and Granville-1. With that being said, it looks like it might be time to start supplementally feeding!

Buckets of honey for hive scale researchNow at this point, I know some of the scales have moved around to different hives or to hives have changed locations. I will try to indicate when that occurred (if it’s not obvious) on the running graphs. And now that the spring flow has ended, I will start looking back at the management records to try and pull out changes in the hives, and how that may have changed the weight. I will also start working with the GIS team to prepare the land cover assessments. Each beekeeper will receive a map of the 5 mile radius around their apiary but I will only report the percentages for that apiary on the website. Lots to do and so little time!

This week I have been busy harvesting buckets and buckets of honey from supers we took off of hives involved in a separate project. After looking at the weight gains throughout the season from all of the hives, I had a new found appreciation for what the bees can accomplish in a week let alone in a month! I want to take a minute and put a 5 lb weight gain into perspective through some fun pictures!

A single plastic frame (left), pulled out completely on both sides and filled past the sides of the frame weighed in at 9.6 pounds! A completely filled frame pulled out and flush to the sides of the frame (right) weighed in at 7.9 pounds.

Honeycomb Weighing 2.55 LbsNow after extracting a frame (left), the plastic frame and drawn comb weighs in just over 2.5 pounds. So the capped honey frame on the left is what 7 pounds of honey looks like, and the one on the right is what 5 pounds looks like (front and back of course).

I’ve been lifting supers and honey frames for years but for some reason, now knowing the weight of these frames, I have such an appreciation for all the energy that goes into a single frame of honey! I also feel pretty muscular knowing I’ve been schlepping around 70 lbs of honey (plus the weight of the equipment) all week!

May 31st - June 7th

This week I had 32 scales to report on which I have split into the following 4 groups: 1) greater than 145 lbs, 2) 110-145 lbs, 3) 80-110 lbs, and 4) Less than 80 lbs.

Week 9 Bee Hive Graph Greater Than 145 Lbs

Week 9 Bee Hive Graph 110-145 Lbs

Week 9 Bee Hive Graph 80-110 Lbs

Week 9 Bee Hive Graph Less Than 80 Lbs

Honey Harvest 2017 Spreadsheet

Well it seems pretty clear to me that the major spring flow has ended. This week the trend is either no change or a slow decline in weight. Although, looking at overall trends when preparing the running graphs for May (shown at the bottom of the page), I was amazed by how much weight hives had put on since April! Some hives, like Wake-3 and Wake-9 more than doubled in size, and across the board, a 50 lb weight gain seemed to be the norm!

I am still working on understanding last week’s weather anomaly and getting access to weather station data so that special feature is slightly behind schedule. One of the reasons for my delay is a new found interest in pollen ID’s, sparked by the curiosity of a Halifax beekeeper! After seeing a big difference in the color of the honey he extracted this year, he contacted me asking if we could analyze honey. My colleague and partner on this project, Allen Olmstead, has been interested in ID-ing pollen from honey for quite some time now so we decided to give it a try here at the bee care center. I will report back in an additional special feature on how it went!

May 24th - May 31st

This week I had 34 scales to report on which I have split into the following 5 groups: 1) greater than 175 lbs, 2) 130-175 lbs, 3) 110-130 lbs, 4) 85-110 lbs, and 5) Less than 85 lbs. With people harvesting or breaking down hives (some have gone queenless) causing substantial jumps in weight, I have grouped hives by their end weight rather than the weight at the start of the week. And in the case of Caswell-Prospect Hill, they jumped from 338 to 176 lbs so I only plotted the past several days at 176 lbs to save room. That’s a lot of honey!

Week 8 Bee Research Graph Greater Than 175 Lbs

Week 8 Bee Research Graph 140-175 Lbs

Week 8 Bee Research Graph 110-140 Lbs

Week 8 Bee Research Graph 85-110 Lbs

Week 8 Bee Research Graph Less than 85 Lbs

Week 8 Bee Research Honey Harvest Table

Purple flower in a fieldSimilar to last week, most of the hives are largely holding steady at this point in the season with the exception of Martin 2, 3, and 4 which are out near the coast in sage fields! As you can see, sage is an excellent resource for them at this time of year, allowing them to gain 10-15 lbs in just 3 days! For anyone who has not heard of sage production in North Carolina or maybe not even seen a sage flower before (I certainly had not!), here is a picture from the field around one of these hives. So plenty to feed on for these ladies!

This week we have some substantial weight losses, with some hives like Orange-2 and Caswell-2 losing 10-15 lbs. Several beekeepers have had their hives swarm and others have lost queens these past few weeks so it’s hard to tell what’s happening at the moment.

An anomaly I noticed this week is the sudden weight drop on May 25th in a lot of the hives. I’m guessing this is weather related rather than bee related based on the same weight drop in the empty equipment:

Week 8 Bee Research Graph Empty

I am so intrigued by this weight change that I’m going to take a deeper dive into what’s going on here in the next special feature! I am going to pull in weather station data from here at the bee center and nearby areas and look through management notes to see if the magnitude of the weight change is related to the type of equipment folks are using. Keep an eye out for that early next week! The more we understand how to interpret weight data and the limits of these interpretations, the more informed we can be when managing our bees!

May 17th - May 24th

This week we have 35 scales to report on but several new beekeepers getting involved! As a reminder, this year we are seeing what all we can get out of the weight data and get a sense of how to assess relationships with land cover. Hopefully if people remain interested in this work, we can improve our study design and refine our approach for data collection next year. So although we will have likely missed the major flow events in these newly added locations, these beekeepers will be setup for the rest of the bee season and ready to go for the spring!

So this week I had to put Big Bertha in a group of her own now that Halifax-3 harvested close to 100 lbs of honey! But I have split the other 34 hives into four groups as follows: 1) 150-200 lbs, 2) 100-150 lbs, 3) 50-100 lbs, and 4) Less than 50 lbs. With people harvesting honey and jumping weight classes, there was quite a spread within groups. I caution everyone to look at the axes very closely: the y-axis scale for the 150-250 lb group is in 20 lb increments as opposed to 10 lbs in the 100-150 and 50-100 lb groups and 2 lb increments for Big Bertha and the Franklin hives less than 50 lbs.

Bee Research Graph Big Bertha

Bee Research Graph 150-250 Lbs

Bee research graph 100-150 lbs

Bee research graph 50-100 lbs

Bee Research Graph Less than 50 Lbs

With people removing supers it’s not as clear in the graphs what’s going on so for those who I can clearly see harvested, I’ve put together a table for how much weight they removed and the weight of the hive before harvest. I will add to this table as others start to harvest as well so we can compare across the regions!

Bee Research Table Week 7

I think a table might also be a better way to highlight the hives that stand out for their weight gains this week instead of writing out a whole list of names! I used different colors for each weight class to hopefully make it easier to differentiate!

Bee Research Table Week 7

Most of the other hives across the board are holding very steady, fluctuating less than half a pound in the course of a week! Which when you think back to the empty hive, is rather surprising actually.

Bee Graph Empty

I am always left with more questions than answers when looking at this weight data! Are the bees buffering the weight changes attributed to equipment? In the case of Nash-3, a 70 lb hive has put on a fifth of its’ original weight within the same week that a 230 lb hive, with presumably 3X the work force, has put on the same amount of weight. How is this hive putting on so much weight when hives just down the road, 1.5X as large, are gaining practically nothing? I don’t think I ever fully appreciated how limited the bees are to whatever is blooming in that 5 mile radius from their hive!

May 9th - May 17th

This week we have 34 scales to report on. Once again, with the spread in weights, I split them into five groups as follows: 1) Greater than 200 lbs, 2) 150-200 lbs, 3) 100-150 lbs, 4) 50-100 lbs, and 5) Less than 50 lbs. This week things really look like things have slowed down and several folks are talking about harvesting!

Week 6 bee hive graph greater than 200 lbs

Week 6 bee hive graph 150-200 lbs

Week 6 bee hive graph 100-150 lbs

Week 6 bee hive graph 50-100 lbs

Week 6 bee hive graph less than 50 lbs

I also want to include the weight readings from the empty deep box (no frames) again:

Bee hive empty equipment graph.

It’s very interesting to see these 1 lb daily weight fluctuations with sharp declines after reaching the peak weight!

Overall weights appear to be relatively flat with only small daily fluctuations however “Big Bertha” at 340 lbs is still putting on weight! I imagine folks will start removing supers at this point so I expect to see some dramatic drops in weight over the next few weeks!

May 3rd - May 9th

This week we have 33 scales to report on. There was such a wide spread in the weights that I split them into five groups this week as follows: 1) Greater than 250 lbs, 2) 150-250 lbs, 3) 100-150 lbs, 4) 75-100 lbs, and 5) Less than 75 lbs. If you recall, in the Week 2 update, we saw the first substantial evidence of the spring nectar flow right around April 11th. It’s been about a month since then and it looks like the speed of weight gain is slowing down in most areas. The weather could certainly be a confounding variable since this past week has been cooler and wetter than the past few weeks.

Week 5 greater than 250 bee chart.

Week 5 150-250 lb bee chart.

Week 5 100-150 lb bee chart.

Week 5 75-100 lb bee chart.

Week 5 less than 75 lbs bee chart.

Something that jumps out to me is the “bump” in the data on May 5th, seen most clearly in Chatham-1, Orange-4, Orange-Ref1, and Nash-1 in the 75-100 lb group, Nash-2, Wake-7, Wake-4 and Orange-1 in the 100-150 lb group, and Wake-2, Johnston-2, Orange-Ref2, Halifax-1, and Halifax-2 in the 150-250 lb group. My thinking is that this is weather related. So to explore this idea, last week I set up an empty deep box (no frames) with a screened bottom board on a scale here at the Bee Care Center.

Week 5 empty deep box chart.

Now this starts to raise even more questions..with just an empty deep box and a lid, there is a ~2 pound weight gain the day before the “bump” in the data. However this 2lb spike on May 4th coincides with the timing of a ~4 lb increase in Orange-1, a 2 lb increase in Caswell-2, and a 4 pound increase in Durham-1, within the 75-100 lb group, and a 3 lb increase in Nash-3 in the less than 75 lb group. I will start looking into local weather station data to see if this corresponds to different weather events in different regions and set up more empty equipment, some with nectar frames, to better understand how the weight of the equipment and woodenware changes during precipitation events. It will be important to know how much the equipment is attributing to weight changes during these events and how much is bee activity!

April 25th - May 3rd

This week we have 31 scales to report for in the following weight classes: 1) greater than 150 lbs, 2) 100-150 lbs, 3) 50-100 lbs, and 4) less than 50 pounds. Several beekeepers have joined the project with some massive honey producing hives! Halifax-3 was the largest this week at close to 260 lbs and next week I will be able to report on Caswell-Prospect Hill aka Big Bertha weighing in at 320 lbs! Now keep in mind, these folks have larger operations than their backyard and are working these hives to maximize honey production. When a state bee inspector was asked how to maximize honey production his answer was simple: location is key. You have to move your hive as different flowering plants/crops start blooming, and that’s what these folks are doing.

Week 4 greater than 150 lbs

Week 4 between 100-150 lbs

Week 4 between 50-100 lbs

Week 4 Less than 50 Lbs

Despite the rain the previous week, the bees are back out on the tulip poplar, blackberry, black locust, honey suckle, southern magnolia and other blooming nectar sources! Most of the hives weighing greater than 150 lbs groups have put on around 20 lbs in the past week! Hives in the 100-150 lbs group are very variable with some of the hives (Nash-1, Orange-1, Wake-2, Wake-4) steadily gaining 5 lbs, and the other half (Caswell-1, Orange-3, Wilson-1, Wake-7, Johnston-2) gaining over 10 lbs. Interestingly this week, where normally we see a decrease in the magnitude of weight gain in the lighter hives, here in the 50-100 lbs group we see some hives gaining 10-20 lbs (Caswell-2, Orange-2, Wake-12). There’s a lot of noise in the other hives within this group so I hesitate to overanalyze what’s going on with these hives. The other surprise this week is Wake-10, which started at less than 50 lbs and has gained 10 lbs this week! The other hives in this group appear to be holding steady at this point.

April 18th - April 25th

Participation with this project has grown tremendously since I first reached out to folks! Thanks to those beekeepers who have spread the word, we are now up to 46 scales with 34 beekeepers, representing 18 different counties! Some folks have locations in more remote areas, rather than or in addition to their backyard, so some of the scales won’t be included in every week’s update but their data will be shown in the running graphs at the bottom of the page as they upload. And of course all of the data collected will be used in the final report to analyze the effects of land cover.

Week 3 Swarming

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This week, we have data from 24 hive scales from April 18-April 25th, and with the spring flow in full swing, we already have to bump up the weight classes! So this week the hives didn’t separate out as cleanly but the 4 different approximate weight classes are as follows: 1) Less than 50 lbs, 2) 50-85 lbs, 3) 85-130 lbs, 4) Greater than 130 lbs.

Week 3 hive scale graph over 130 lbs

Week 3 hive scale between 85-130 lbs

Week 3 hive scale graph under 50 lbs

Week 3 hive scale graph less than 50 lbs

Similar to last week, we see that the nectar flow is going on strong, with the largest hives gaining around 15 pounds in just 5 days! However, those 5 days were not prime foraging weather with intermittent rain and cloudy skies during the week. This weekend’s cooler temperatures and persistent rainfall clearly halted honey production with the weight gain largely flat lining from the afternoon on April 22nd all the way through the 25th. This can clearly be seen in Wake-Ref1 and Orange-Ref2 in the “greater than 130 lbs” group and Orange-1 and Wilson-1 in the “85-130 lbs” group.

Next week, we will take a deeper dive into how the rain has affected the nectar flow and compare the patterns in weight gain the week before, the week during, and the week after an extended period of rainfall!

April 11th-April 18th

This week, we have data from 25 hive scales from April 11-April 18th. I’ve chosen to group the hives into four different weight classes for this week: 1) Less than 50 lbs., 2) 50-75 lbs., 3) 75-100 lbs., 4) More than 100 lbs. These weight classes aren’t fixed, so hives are likely to change weight class each week as well as the cut offs for these classes, especially as the nectar flow progresses. I also “cleaned up” the data by removing weights taken when beekeepers were in their hives. My intention with the first week’s post was to show how messy this data can be and how we will have to “clean up” the data by removing some readings when the hive is being inspected or manipulated. We are still looking at the best way to account for supplemental feedings but we won’t worry about doing that until we are looking at several months’ worth of data!

So, let’s see what’s going on:

week 2 - Greater than 100 lbs

week 2 - 75-100 lbs

week 2 - 50-75 lbs

week 2 - Less than 50 lbs

I want to take a minute to walk through how I interpret the data. So first off, I like to look at overall trends: what was the weight at the beginning of the week vs. the weight at the end of the week. In doing so, I look for hives that have added equipment which are easy to spot with a dramatic increase in weight , roughly 10-15 lbs, in 15 minutes. For those hives, I look at the trend before and after the equipment was added to assess what’s going on. So for Wake-2 in the >100 lbs. weight class, you can see on April 15th that beekeeper added equipment and the hive has been remained steady ever since. But in the case of Wilson-1 in the 75-100 lbs. weight class, after the equipment was added on April 13th, the hive has continued to put on weight in honey stores.

Another thing I immediately look for is evidence of supplemental feeding. A great example of supplemental feeding is shown by Nash-1 in the 75-100 lbs. weight class. There is a clear spike of ~15 lbs on the 11th but unlike hives where folks have added equipment, you see the weight drop by 10 lbs over the next 5 days. Added equipment shows a large jump in the weight within 15 minutes but the weight readings after that do not lose that same magnitude of weight. Whereas with supplemental feedings, the weight will continually drop as the bees consume and expel that sugar water for energy or brood rearing. Other examples of supplemental feeding can be seen in week 1 in the graph of just Wake county hives,Wake-2 and Wake-4, with big jumps in the weight followed by a steady decline as those resources are used.

This week, I heard several reports of tulip poplar and black locust in bloom and looking at the weight gains this week, it looks like bees are making use of both of these great nectar sources! As I sorted the hives out into these weight classes, it became apparent that the size of the hive plays a role in how well they are able to capitalize on a food resource. In the greater than 100 lbs. weight class, you can see Wake-3, Wake-4, and Wake-Ref1 are tracking almost identically, each gaining 15-20 lbs just this week! In the 75-100 lbs class, Orange-1 and Wilson-1 have gained about 10 lbs this week (when the weight gain caused by the added equipment for Wilson-1 is removed) and Wake-5 gaining closer to 15 lbs (when the weight of the brick they added on the 17th is subtracted). In the 50-75 lbs. weight class, the data shows a ~5 lbs weight gain for Orange-2 and Durham-1 and then less than a 5 lb. weight gain for Durham-2 and Durham-3 in the less than 50 lb. weight class. This trend would certainly make sense since the more bees in a hive, the more foragers they have to capitalize on a resource.

I only singled out the hives showing a clear weight gain throughout the whole week time span. However, there is still a lot of variability across regions and across weight classes that will hopefully become clearer as the flow continues! In general, most hives are starting to put on weight, especially those in the higher weight classes. Keep an eye out for tulip poplar and black locust blooming in your area!

April 1st-April 11th

Almost all of our beekeepers have their scales set up now and we are ready to start diving into the data. Currently, we have 17 hive scales that have been active from April 1-April 11 that we can take a look at this week, and next week, we will hopefully be able to report on all 34!

hive scale in wake country

So as you can see, the data is very noisy…we will work on figuring out how best to display the data from all 34 locations without oversimplifying it or transforming the data too much. But just looking at the weight on April 1st and the weight on April 11th for all of these hives, I see relatively little change in weight. There might be a slight increase going on but to me, it is not strong enough to indicate the poplar flow has started.

There are several folks supplementally feeding quite frequently and as a result, these hives appear to be building up, again comparing the weight from the 1st to the 11th. Now looking at hives that have not been fed so frequently, it appears there is just enough forage to sustain colonies but not enough to start packing the honey on.

If you’re wondering about the data gaps for some of the scales, I removed any weight readings that were taken when hives were strapped down during the storm we had this past week. With the inclement weather and high winds, some folks strapped their hives to the scales to stabilize them (the mechanism these scales use to take the weight can cause the hive to get a little wobbly). This created elevated readings from the pressure of the ratchet straps so to simplify the graph, I went ahead and removed these readings.

Now since we have 7 scales up in Wake county, let’s take a deeper dive into what’s going on there:

hive scale in wake country - April 1-April 11

Looking at these 7 scales, I’ll be honest, it’s hard to tell what’s going on with only 10  days of weight data.  Wake-1, 6, and Ref1 appear rather flat, in fact 1 and 6 are even declining slightly. Since these are not being supplementally fed, it leads me to believe we are still waiting for the poplars to pop! Wake-2, 3, 4 and 5 are being fed fairly regularly and are starting to put that food to use, gaining ~20 pounds or in the case of Wake-2 burning through 20 pounds in a short amount of time. Wake-4 is an extreme example of this, gaining almost 30 pounds from April 1 to April 11!

Tulip poplar shouldn’t be too far out and several folks have mentioned they’ve already seen some starting to bloom! We will continue to work with this data and try to find the best way to display it from twice as many hives next week! Yowza!

Project Launch

The project is finally underway! We have 32 scales out so far with a few more getting set up this next week! We will follow hives county by county through the course of the project and report the weekly weight data here. We will post the first week’s data starting week 1 in the format seen below, and then as we get more data over the next few weeks we will build out the graph at the bottom of the page and get a better idea of what the bees are up to!

March 28th - April 4th

I wish we could have gotten scales out sooner to capture what’s been going on with this wacky weather but fortunately we have had scales out at the Bayer Bee Care Center apiary since July! Here’s what they’ve been up to in 2017:

January 1 - March 20, 2017