Smart Monitoring for Healthy Hives

National Pollinator Week Bee Health Webinar Recap

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Did you observe National Pollinator Week in June? At Bayer, we took some time to celebrate the bees and other pollinators that are so crucial to our food supply and ecosystems. One way we did so was by hosting the second annual bee health webinar series in collaboration with Bee Culture and Project Apis m.

Yellow Flower and a BeeWe were fortunate to have researchers focused on improving colony health share the innovative work they’re doing with us through two live webinars. These researchers, part of the Healthy Hives 2020 initiative, were also joined by some special guests this year: beekeepers who are collaborating on their projects and who took part in the webinars to explain the real-life impacts the projects can have for beekeepers far and wide.

To kick off the week, we were treated to a presentation by Dr. Brandon Hopkins, Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology at Washington State University, and Brody Tomazin, Commercial Beekeeper at 2J Honey Farms and Round Valley Honey Company, and President of the Idaho Honey Industry Association.

Dr. Hopkins and Mr. Tomazin are working together on a practical, digital management tool for commercial beekeepers that uses RFID tracking to help monitor hives in real-time. The possibilities this new capability could bring to beekeepers, especially those with large operations, are endless. We were inspired to hear all the plans Dr. Hopkins and Mr. Tomazin have for their new tool, once complete. Here’s just a small sampling of what this technology could allow beekeepers to accomplish:

  • Dr. Brandon Hopkins working with an apiaryEase of Use – Since the tool is meant to make beekeepers’ jobs easier, the hardware required only includes three simple components: your smartphone, an RFID scanner and RFID tags to be used on each individual hive or pallet. Instead of manually scanning each tag, once the setup is complete, the RFID tags automatically scan as the beekeeper passes by each one. The manager simply inputs into the system what task he or she is at the yard to complete, and the system streamlines the entire reporting and management process automatically, without time spent typing or writing down data. This helps to reduce errors and minimize time spent in the field.
  • Decision Support Tools – This automation means collecting real-time data on an ongoing basis to make better decisions about efficiencies within a beekeeping operation. For example, for those who have staff supporting their operation, the tool can optimize reporting for ongoing management practices, such as treating for Varroa, feeding the hives and even monitoring honey production, among other datasets. Simply put, you can see what your crew is working on in real time.
  • Performance Review – The crew just has to “clock in,” and the manager of a commercial beekeeping operation can track time spent at various tasks and assigned work that is completed as it happens. This helps facilitate more efficient, timely management practices and feedback, catching mistakes or forgotten tasks before they become an issue.
  • Notifications – Speaking of efficient management, those using this tool can set up alerts to help them stay on top of the latest updates for their operation at all times.
  • ...And More – Since the tool is still in development, there are many more possible uses for the system beyond what was discussed in the webinar. One particular benefit Dr. Hopkins and Mr. Tomazin highlighted is the ability to find correlations and trends when monitoring and treating for Varroa, comparing year-over-year or hive-to-hive performance and refining treatments for the next year. Beyond that, commercial beekeepers could use this system to conduct their own experiments and implement their learnings based on hives’ performance when varying a number of factors, such as yard location, stocking rates, feed additives, varroa treatments and more.

ABeekeeper Equipmentll these new capabilities provided through using the new digital hive management tool will allow beekeepers to gain more control and oversight for their own operations. By increasing visibility and real-time responses to their hives, the goal is to have a significant impact on overall colony health and greater success for commercial beekeepers alike.

Interested in learning more and want to hear the whole story, straight from Dr. Hopkins and Mr. Tomazin? Good news – you can! The National Pollinator Week webinar recordings are available on our website. Just click the “View Replay” button. Share your thoughts with us, and stay tuned for more news on how we’re working with the industry to support healthy hives!