Are you annotating your hive scale data?

The Bee Informed Partnership’s Electronic Hive Monitoring program gathers data from hundreds of electronic hive monitors located all over the USA.   Much of this data is publicly available to the beekeeping community in a variety of actionable formats.  For example, if you go over to the BIP research portal at and click on Hive Monitors you can see a public gain/loss map that shows the 7 day moving average weight loss/gain of the hive monitors within that state.

screenshot of the hive monitoring public map
Bee Informed Partnership’s Hive Scale Heat Map – shows average loss / gain in weight over last 7 days by state.

We are also doing algorithmic work on the data and attempting to discover more actionable information about colony health from this vast collection of electronically captured data.  If you are a participant in BIP’s hive monitoring program, we would like to share some advise with you on how you can make your data more useful to the research community.   One of the most important things we need you to do is to login to the research portal using the same credentials that you registered your scale with.  Once logged in we need you to actively interesting changes in the data via our annotation interface.  For example, if you’ve added an empty honey super to the hive, you’ll likely see a 20 lb increase in weight on that day.  We need you to find those types of changes in weight and tell us what happened to cause it.  In the future this additional info will be very helpful in helping us improve our machine learning algorithms which we hope will ultimately help the beekeeping community make better colony management decisions.

To help simply this task for you, we’ve already introduced a feature to our research portal to automatically find all the changes in weight that likely require some sort of human annotation. Every night when you’re getting your rest after a long day of beekeeping activities, our algorithms kick in and analyze all the data received over the past 24 hours.  Any changes in weight that likely need annotation will be flagged and reported to you the next time you login to our portal.  To get a better idea of this works, take a look at the YouTube demonstration video below.

We hope this short demonstration of how easy it is for you to annotate your data has motivating you to login to the BIP research portal and get busy marking up your data!  Remember, the more annotations you provide on your data, the more useful your data becomes as we continue to try to build even better machine learning algorithms!


Sentinel Apiary Monthly Memo: June Issue


I don’t know about you, but my back hurts, which must mean the peak beekeeping season is officially well underway. The honey is flowing and supers are filling up. Do you know what your mite loads are? If not, Sentinel Apiaries are here to help. Sentinel Apiary participants sample 4 or 8 colonies for Varroa every month during the peak beekeeping season. This year marks the largest year of the Sentinel Apiary Program to date with 102 registered Sentinel Apiaries! If there’s a Sentinel Apiary near you, check their mite loads at This can help show you what mites are doing in your neighborhood.  Now that the first month of the program is complete, we’d like to begin a series of monthly Sentinel updates to share results with the BIP community.

Throughout the month of May, over 330 Sentinel Varroa and Nosema samples were processed by our diagnostics lab! Apiaries were sampled in 26 states across the country. Typically, the trend is that mite loads increase faster in the south than they do in the north. This makes sense because the warm southern climate allows colonies to brood up earlier, and mites depend on capped brood to reproduce. This year’s Sentinel Apiaries have shown just this, with May mite loads higher in the south than the north. So far, of the participating states, Arizona, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina have exceeded an average of 2 mites/100 bees in Sentinel Apiaries.. So if you’re in the south, be sure to monitor next time your colonies are super free and get a treatment in if you need one.

Figure 1. Map of Sentinel mite loads available at Varroa loads are also displayed at the county level.

All other participating states are still well below threshold at an average of 0-2 mites. A big congratulations to Wisconsin for having this month’s lowest mite load at 0.09 mites/100 bees! This is great news for northern beekeepers, who have seen colder and wetter weather than typical, but be sure to still monitor if you’re planning on adding supers soon. It’s important to make sure your mite levels are as low as possible if it’s going to be a while before you get back down to the brood nest to sample. It’s only a matter of time until mite loads rise throughout the country.

Figure 2. University of Arkansas Apiculture Instructor Jon Zawislak prepares for flooding by propping colonies up on cinderblocks. Photo from University of Arkansas, Jon Zawislak.

Another observation from early Sentinel samples is that weather has been anything but normal. Sentinel participants report on whether their climate has been atypical, and many participants cite heavy rains and abnormal temperatures as negatively impacting their colonies. There has been substantial rain and flooding throughout much of the Midwest and plains regions. Beekeepers are having trouble getting queens well mated, as well as producing honey since there have been so few days with flyable weather. It’s been a rough start to the year for many, but everyone is hoping things will calm down soon in time for the last couple months of summer.

We’re just getting started and we would love to hear from you. As the season progresses, we’ll be sharing some interesting data in these monthly blogs and hope to have some Sentinel participants share how their monthly monitoring is changing how they manage their colonies. Get ready, hold on and take care of your back!



2018 Sentinel Apiary Program Results

The fourth year of the Sentinel Apiary Program was another great success! The program included 64 beekeepers sampling 418 colonies, for a total of 1,901 samples!

You can view the whole 2018 Summary Report here.



We are very excited to share that 2018 Sentinel Participants had significantly lower Varroa loads than the historical national average!






Our Hive Scale Map also underwent extensive remodeling this year, and now includes Varroa data as well as showing a net weight gain or loss per state over the past week to provide even more real time context.





With three years of extensive colony health data now collected, we are finally ready to begin asking some exciting questions. A couple of innovative ways we are using Sentinel data are:

Preliminary results of experiments on inter-apiary mite transmission. Red arrows indicate distance and direction traveled by bees from crashing colonies, potentially bringing mites to new apiaries.


Investigation of inter-apiary Varroa transmission. Sentinel data revealed rapid increases in Varroa populations that cannot be explained by normal mite reproduction, indicating a possible outside source of mites. This has led us to begin investigating the extent to which Varroa from highly infested/crashing colonies spread to nearby apiaries across the landscape.





Correlation of internal physical symptoms to mortality using historical Sentinel samples. We save~10% of all Sentinel samples as a historical record, and recently a PhD student in our lab, Anthony Nearman, has made exciting headway in correlating internal abnormalities (such a sting gland swelling, see image) in these bees to colony mortality. This could pave the way for a new method of colony sampling to better predict mortality.

Comparison of a swollen sting gland (right) to a healthy sting gland (left). Internal symptoms like these seem to be good predictors of colony mortality.


Example of what the NASA-Developed tool will look like: allowing us to determine a radius around Sentinel Apiaries to look at surrounding landscape factors.

Collaboration with NASA-DEVELOP to investigate landscape effects on Sentinel colony health using NASA-Earth satellite imagery. This summer we had the amazing opportunity to work with NASA to develop a tool which can intake information about your Sentinel Apiary and show us a variety of landscape factors around it such as precipitation, soil moisture, and land cover. This will allow us to make correlations between the landscape, colony health, and how the effectiveness of management practices varies across space. A video about this work can be found here.

We are already recruiting for the 2019 season! If you would like to provide invaluable data while taking the best care of your colonies, learn more and sign up here!


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