It’s That Time Again!

Well, it’s started. No, not the ‘bee work,’ or the experiments, or our Winter Management Survey, while they have all started too, that is not what I am referring to. What I am referring to is the GigaPan camera rig that I became so familiar with last summer, my baby, if you will. The cause of strange sounds echoing down the halls, the attraction of curious visitors, and the odd monstrosity that is the GigaPan rig—a mass of wood, cords, power supplies, lights, and computers.

The GigaPan Rig

The GigaPan is a high quality camera that is mounted on a specifically designed, mechanical rig, taking detailed, high quality images. It can be set to automatically take these images within a designated area. The top, bottom, left and right boundaries are set as well as the lowest and highest points of the object image. This creates a template so the rig can automatically and independently take images at different focal lengths, of the set object. The whole process takes about 55 minutes to complete for each frame, because about 980 images are taken and then manually pieced together, creating a master image in which you can zoom in to magnify any region of interest.  It is an amazing piece of technology that proves to shed more light on some of the mysteries beekeeping can present.

Last summer we did a progression of an AFB and Chalkbrood frame and watched them changed over a set time period. From these images, we hope to share with beekeepers what the disease looks like and how it progresses, weakening the hive.  Every day, I would drive out to the eerily secluded, designated AFB yard and take the two, marked frames and bring them back to the lab to photograph. The AFB progression has been made into a time lapse movie and you can check it out HERE. In the case of this video, it is very interesting to see how the frame progressed over the course of the daily image.  One thing to note about viewing the AFB  movie is that it needs to be viewed in Google Chrome or Safari. Currently, the Chalkbrood time lapse is still in the works, but I will be sure to update when it is complete. You can also check out some of the still, pictures that were posted on the GigaPan website that Mike Andree and Rob Snyder have taken in their travels with a different kind of GigaPan camera.

One major issue we ran into last summer was the AFB, and eventually the Chalkbrood frame, ceased progressing over the course of the imaging process. Although I tried to have the frames out for a minimal amount of time, in an already weakened colony, rich with disease, the queen stopped laying in the frames, and the bees were successful in removing any remnants of disease. Before I knew it, I was taking pictures of an empty frame. I am hoping to avoid this roadblock this time around…

Our GigaPan project this summer is to take pictures of a foundation frame that needs to be drawn out, essentially starting from scratch. We will take a daily image and until the frame is drawn out and the brood cycle begins, then reduce the pictures being taken to one image every three days.  This will help beginning beekeepers to understand what to expect when they start a hive on a bare frame with a package throughout the season.

In addition to this progression, we also want to take a picture of wax moth and small hive beetle larvae, following it from the time when eggs are laid within the comb and then watch it progress to its mature state. We cannot capture images of the actual beetles and moths, but we can take a look at the way they cultivate in the hive and reach their adult state, before hatching and infesting the hive.

There are still software kinks, light consistency questions, and frame positioning honing, but we are optimistic that is what this summer will teach us. Hopefully, this time around we will solve the GigaPan questions so that these images are adequate, useful, depictions for beekeepers to understand the progression of certain aspects of brood as well as tools for beekeepers to recognize certain diseases within their hives. This season holds much prospect, and we are excited to explore more with the GigaPan and see how we can add vital information to the world of beekeeping. More details to come!



Written By: Jennie Stitzinger

Jennie Stitzinger has written 55 post in this blog.

In the summer of 2010 I walked in to the Penn State Agricultural Sciences building to inquire about a job a friend had mentioned to me. I was a poor college student, I needed to pay my summer rent, I was offered the job and I took it—I had no idea what I was in for. Fast forward a little over a year and I was kneeling on rocks and mud, in the cold, northern California rain, surrounded by dairy cows and hundreds of hives while Africanized bees were pinging off my bee suit. With a degree in Community Development from Penn State University, I never thought in a million years I would be working with honey bees upon graduation, but I guess life sure has its surprises. Now a member of the University of Maryland Diagnostic team, I work on many different aspects of BIP and the National Honey Bee Survey. Whether it is field work, traveling, report writing, crunch time projects, or larger missions, I am most likely working on it. What is my favorite part of the job? Working on an awesome project that has impact and is helping beekeepers around the country, learning more about honey bees than I ever thought I wanted to know, and giving me experiences I never thought possible.


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