The Bee Informed Partnership is excited to expand into monitoring honey bee health through hive monitoring systems and scales. We have begun to add hive scales to a national network connected to the BIP database and displayed on our website (Link to map here). This network will monitor nectar flows and dearths in an effort to link forage and nectar resources to colony health. We have been testing various hive scales since 2012 to find hardware that would perform reliably for this effort; see here.
With the release of the BIP Hive Scale Program were are offering the opportunity for Tier 4 participants and Beekeeper Associations to have early access to this program before the release to the general public.
To download the installation documents for the Hive Scale please click the following links:
Solution Bee Software Tutorial Video:
This ongoing effort will expand NASA’s original program to show real-time online data from these networked monitoring systems, including the climate, vegetation and nectar flow. In collaboration with Grand Valley State University, we advanced this work to develop BIP’s own Application Programming Interface (API) for scale vendors to integrate into their systems. Eventually, we will provide real-time alerts to the beekeeper to support management decisions (alerting the beekeeper to swarms, thefts, etc.) and to follow nectar flows/dearths that may affect disease and parasite loads.
How the Hive Scale Program Works:
Hive scales weigh individual colonies at regular intervals, keeping track of strong nectar flows, swarming, and other conditions that affect management decisions. Beekeepers may respond to rises in weight by putting supers on, inspecting colonies for swarm cells, and extracting full honey supers. Conversely, weight loss may indicate a need to feed colonies, robbing, or indicate the colony has swarmed and is at increased risk of becoming queenless. With new digital hive scales, beekeepers can track the weight, temperature and humidity of remote colonies without having to physically check on a hive. Many hive scales allow for data to be automatically uploaded via cell phones or cell phone service data plans that allow for remote monitoring. The scale we will specifically be selling for this rollout utilizes Bluetooth to send data to your smartphone, when within a range of 30 yards, and then will upload the data to the internet.
Armed with data from hive scales and other disease monitoring efforts, the Bee Informed Partnership hopes to make predictive models of honey flows and disease population growth. These models will help us develop an “alert system” that will make management recommendations based on real-time and regionally specific data.
As of May 2014, we have tested hive scales from SolutionBee and BeeWatch, available from Swienty. We have outlined the Pros and Cons of each of these scales below. These highlights are from our testing only of a specific model in time and may not represent your experiences.
For Scale Vendors:
The Bee Informed Partnership is scale agnostic and we encourage any scale vendor who would like to participate in our database to contact us regarding our BIP Scale API. If your integration with this API is successful, we would be happy to further test the scale and the data connectivity and consider adding your product to BIP’s list of compatible hive scale vendors.
SolutionBee Hive Scale evaluation results, May 2014
- Very simple and quick set up (usually < 15 minutes)
- Relatively inexpensive (~$450)
- Direct Bluetooth download of data to a single (or capability of multiple) Android phones is quick and easy
- No SIM card required (and thus no monthly data plan required)
- User manual is complete and thorough and includes troubleshooting guide
- Customer service is responsive and helpful
- Batteries are long lasting (>2 years)
- Scale performance is good
- Comprehensive instructions on how to share data with BIP database
- Full complement of ‘alerts’ to beekeepers is not complete yet
- You must get within 30 feet of hive scale to download data (i.e. actual visit to hive scale is required)
- Replacement batteries, although long-lasting, are custom and will be available for purchase through the scale vendor or Brushy Mountain
Beewatch Pro Hive Scale evaluation results, May 2014
- Once it is running, scale works well and integration to the BIP Hive Scale Portal is easy to setup. Batteries are replaceable.
- Scale performance is good. Data is submitted automatically over the cellular network, so no visit to the apiary is required.
- Difficult to configure and setup.
- Requires SIM card and active data plan with appropriate cell phone provider. This requires additional set up steps and monthly charges.
- Communication w/Beewatch difficult and convoluted (customer support not straightforward)
- Troubleshooting not straightforward (i.e. if scale is not working, not sure if it is cell coverage, scale itself, or some other issue)
- 2-3 times as expensive as other tested scales (~$1500)
- 3, D size batteries may ‘pop out’ of the battery enclosure deactivating the scale.
- The entire colony must be moved off the scale to replace the batteries.
Sentinel Hives monitor honey bee health in real-time using hive scales to track colony weight gain or loss, monthly disease assessments, and traps that collect some of the pollen bees bring home to determine available plant forage. The scale data is automatically transmitted to our servers and the patterns of nectar flow mapped. The goal is to collect enough information so that Sentinel Hives become early warning systems and we can alert beekeepers of potential problems due to increases in disease or lack of nutritional resources. The Sentinel Hives will allow us to develop data driven best management practices for beekeepers in real time, improving honey bee health for all beekeepers.
The Bee Informed Partnership has joined to together with our home institution, University of Maryland College Park, to launch a kick starter campaign to help fund our Sentinel Hive Scale Project. Through this initiative it is our goal to use crowd sourced funding to help launch the next innovation in Apiary Management. Follow the link below to find out more about our citizen/scientist partnership.