Sentinel Apiary Program 2021 Wrap-Up and 2022 Sign-Up

Authors: Rachel Kuipers, Jeri Parrent & Nathalie Steinhauer

Here at Bee Informed Partnership, we are excited to announce that registration for the 2022 Sentinel Program is open now through the end of April! Don’t delay – register today by completing the quick and easy online registration form here.

This past season, there were 92 Sentinel participants who sampled over 500 colonies across 129 unique locations. The University of Maryland Honey Bee Lab processed 2,312 samples from Sentinel colonies throughout the season. That’s a lot of samples—a record for the program! We also reached eight of the nine NOAA climatic regions, as well as the non-continental US (Figure 1).

Graphic of the United States. Black dots are placed in geographic locations where Sentinel Apiary Program hives were located in the 2021 season
Figure 1. Distribution of Sentinel apiaries during the 2021 season. In 2021, there were 92 program participants located in 27 US states and Guam. © 2021, Nathalie Steinhauer,

Sentinel Results Reveal Real Benefits

Sentinel program results from the past several years show that Sentinel participants tend to have colonies with lower average detectable Varroa loads than the national averages reported from the National Honey Bee Disease Survey (NHBS), a USDA-funded annual survey organized by the University of Maryland Honey Bee Lab in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America. This lower average may be due in part to the timely management actions taken in response to the results Sentinel participants receive from their monthly colony health monitoring and testing efforts.

Results from the 2021 season were consistent with those from previous years: Sentinel participants had colonies with lower average Varroa loads throughout the season than the national average reported for colonies sampled as part of the NHBS (Figure 2). Varroa were detected in over 60% of Sentinel samples. Varroa loads peaked in October, with detectable levels in 82% of samples—half of which were above the 3% action threshold. This is on par with previous years of data.

Figure 2. 2021 average (error bars represent ± 1 standard error) monthly Varroa load for Sentinel program colonies (orange bars) and the USDA National Honey Bee Disease Survey colonies (gray bars). Sentinel colonies tend to have lower average detectable Varroa loads in their samples than the national average. April and November Sentinel data were excluded from analysis because there were fewer than 30 samples per month. © 2021, Nathalie Steinhauer,

2021 Sentinel Program Highlights

To continue to improve community building and information exchange within the program, in 2021 BIP began holding monthly Zoom meetings and webinars for Sentinel participants, where Sentinel beekeepers from across the country came together to share their experiences, ask questions, and learn from BIP’s own honey bee health experts, as well as one other. We also expanded our publicly available educational resources with instructional videos demonstrating how to perform colony inspections that are available on our YouTube channel where you can find a variety of educational resources – subscribe now!

In 2021 BIP’s incredible IT team introduced changes to the BIP mobile app so Sentinel participants were able to use it to upload their inspection notes directly from their bee yards to our database. The IT team also designed an online dashboard where Sentinel participants were able to directly download their reports and raw data.

We also began building connections with bee organizations across the country through our new sponsorship program, in which groups sponsor Sentinel participation for their members by subsidizing the program via discount codes. By sponsoring discounts for their members, these organizations were not only able to increase the accessibility of the program for their members, they helped other beekeepers in their communities by monitoring a greater number of colony health metrics.

Expanding the Sentinel Apiary Program in 2022

Figure 3. Maryland’s Montgomery County Beekeepers Association members inspect a colony before collecting a sample for the Sentinel Apiary Program. © 2021, Maureen Jais-Mick,

In response to the success of our beekeeping organization sponsorhip program, in 2022 we are continuing our efforts to expand this exciting opportunity. Clubs choose their sponsorship level: they can cover the full cost of participation, a percentage of the cost, or a set amount per kit, as well as the number of participants who can take part. Sponsoring organizations may have access to the online dashboard tool that displays their members’ results, depending on the sponsorship level and permission of the participating members. Furthermore, in addition to our existing four- and eight- colony kits, 12 colony kits are also available—perfect for bee clubs with multiple yards. And individual kits of any size can now be used across multiple apiaries.

BIP’s Sentinel Apiary Program registration fees are priced at-cost, so the discounts these organizations provide to their members increase the affordability and accessibility of the program for their members, while helping to cover the costs needed to keep the program up and running. We are incredibly grateful to the individuals and organizations who have made these collaborations happen—thank you! If your local club is interested we would love to talk with you about sponsorship opportunities. Contact Sentinel Program Coordinator Rachel Kuipers at

Register Now!

Once again, make sure to visit the Bee Informed Partnership’s Sentinel Apiary Program website, where you can learn more about the Program, and fill out the 2022 Sentinel Apiary Program online registration form ( The supply kits are distributed in April.

As always, we appreciate your support—we couldn’t do this without you.

Happy beekeeping!

The BIP Team


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