Using sensor technologies from your desk to inspect hives far and wide

While many dedicated beekeepers understand how important it is to regularly inspect their honey bees to assess their health, it’s important to note that you can also retrieve vital information about your bee colonies by learning more about their behavior, particularly how it changes within the hive between inspections. But how can you check out hive activity when you’re not actively inspecting? Our scientists are currently exploring sensor technologies, such as Smart Hives, and evaluating how you can use different systems from the comfort of your desk to monitor the health and production of honey bee colonies around the clock from any smart device or computer.

How do sensor technologies work?

Closeup Bee PictureDigital sensors are placed underneath the hive to monitor hive weight, outside temperature and humidity. With some products, beekeepers download the data at the hive and then upload it to a cloud database so that it becomes available anywhere, at any time. This kind of technology helps improve general hive management and decision-making, but it has other benefits, as well. The sensors can track weight changes more efficiently, for example, or help determine when nectar flows occur or even monitor when bees might need to be fed.

There are also some systems that incorporate sensors inside of hives, which collect internal hive temperatures and relative humidity, and other systems that record bee traffic at the entrance of the hive. However, many of these systems are still on the expensive side for use in every hive. Since sensor data has the potential to replace many visits to the apiary, we hope they will soon be perfected and become standard equipment for modern beekeeping.

Real examples of Smart Hives at work

Bayer Smart Bee HiveThe Bayer Bee Care Program has several research hives that incorporate sensor and Smart Hive technology, and we are also evaluating Smart Hives in other states throughout the U.S. and several Canadian provinces.

In fact, one of our interns, Annie Krueger, is working with several local beekeepers in North Carolina to understand the utility of hive scales, which track hive weight change. This information can help beekeepers across the state better understand the impact of different landscapes on honey production, the largest drive of hive weight change.

By comparing weight data from more than 100 hives scattered across North Carolina, Krueger and her partners are looking at how everything, from the type of land where hives are located to disturbances in the landscape through development or urbanization, affects how much honey the hives produce each day. By incorporating Smart Hive technology, Krueger hopes this project will help beekeepers understand when their bees need additional food resources, as well as how to manage their hives based on location. You can find up-to-date information on Krueger’s hive scale project and her team’s ongoing reporting on our website.

How do I incorporate this technology into my own apiary?

While Bayer is not the first to use and evaluate digital sensors and hive scale technology, we hope that our research and experience with the pioneering phase of this technology will help improve the technology and encourage beekeepers to adopt these tools.

There is a tremendous amount of data that is generated by these scales and other sensors, and our scientists are constantly working on management and analysis protocols. The best way for you to become familiar with sensor technology is to get a system to use on your own hives. There are several companies that already offer this technology to commercial beekeepers and hobbyists, including Solutionbee, Broodminder, Arnia and Bee Smart Technology, among others. Each one is different, so make sure to do your research and choose what would work best for your own honey bee colonies!

If you want to know more about the innovative research going on at the Bayer Bee Care Center, check out our website at beehealth.bayer.us.