PollenCheck✓; Citizen scientists meet a new mobile application

We know that pollen is a key resource for honey bees, a resource they must be able to find in sufficient quantity and quality in their local forage. Yet, we know little about the quality of forage available to honey bees throughout the U.S. The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) is working to fill this knowledge gap.

The Bee Informed Partnership’s (BIP) central mission is to help beekeepers reduce colony losses by identifying best management practices. BIP does this through surveys and by sponsoring a number of programs to inform beekeepers across the country. In fact, the 12th annual colony loss survey and management practice survey is now open; be sure to participate!

BIP sponsors other programs as well, such as Hive-scale monitoring, Sentinel Apiaries,  and the Tech Transfer Teams. The hive scale monitoring program enables beekeepers and beekeeping clubs to gather and use data from their own hives to follow nectar flows, honey production, swarm alerts, theft alerts and other valuable data from their own colony and others around the nation. Sentinel Apiaries combines the use and benefit of the hive scales with monthly monitoring of real-time disease assessments of Varroa and Nosema loads, and act as early warning systems to alert beekeepers of upticks in disease as well as changes in hive weight. And of course, last but not least, BIP collects copious amounts of data from commercial beekeepers serviced by our expert Technical Transfer Teams throughout the US. Most of the data collected is specific to pest and disease loads with the occasional pesticide and pollen analysis. Up to now, it has been difficult, not to mention costly, to collect reliable, nationwide data on pollen quantity and diversity.

Figure 1. Sub-sample of a spring, summer and fall collection. Can you guess which one is which?


BIP is excited to announce the launch of PollenCheck✓!

PollenCheck✓ was designed to facilitate the collection of vast amounts of pollen data and encourage individual “citizen scientists” to participate in a larger scale nutritional survey program.  An easy way to achieve this participation is to use a mobile application running on smartphones. The app provides guidance as users follow the proposed protocol for gathering nutritional data from their own apiaries. In addition, the app facilitates the entry, collection and aggregation of geocoded nutritional data into a centralized cloud-based database.


Figure 2. The PollenCheck app for iPhone (An Android version is also available)

The application prompts the user to enter colony health measurements, such as queen status, colony size, amount of uncapped brood and mite count for example. The specific pollen information required includes, total volume collected and number of colors in a 100 pellet sub-sample as well as the number of pellets of each color.

Collecting pollen is highly rewarding and a valuable learning experience. The benefits of collecting pollen information far outweigh the time-consuming effort. Collecting and processing pollen will tell you much about your bees’ health, give you a pulse of their surrounding environment, provide an historical and geographical context and help you make predictions on colony productivity. After all, ‘You are what you eat’. Do you know what your bees bring back to the nest to feed the up-coming workforce?

BIP will launch the PollenCheck✓ program this coming season as a stand-alone project or as an additional option to the Sentinel Apiary program. All you need to participate in PollenCheck✓ are 2 colonies in the same location, 2 front porch pollen traps (available from Brushy Mountain with our discount code), a PollenCheck✓ pollen processing kit available from BIP at the low cost of $25 and a smartphone (iPhone or Android device) to download the PollenCheck✓ mobile application available in the app store. To learn more about the PollenCheck✓ program and view the tutorial videos on pollen collection and processing, please visit: https://beeinformed.org/programs/pollencheck/  If you would like to join this year, or have questions, please contact us at: support@beeinformed.org


Written By: Anne Marie Fauvel

Anne Marie Fauvel has written 1 post in this blog.

As the Tech Transfer Team Coordinator for the Bee Informed Partnership, I facilitate collaboration between commercial beekeepers, our highly specialized Tech Transfer Teams in the field and the various research institutions. I have the best job of all!