Thermal imaging for beehives – geeky or wise?

I’ve just been reading up about thermal imaging – in particular the FLIR camera lens for IOS.

There is a great article here – this blog from Rusty is so good that every beekeeper should read it – regularly.  One aspect that caught my attention was the fact she said it was male beekeepers sending her these geeky images.  At school and beyond I have often found myself more in tune with males than females and I certainly lust after this wonderful lens.  However, there is a certain irony in the fact a hive of honeybees is female dominated.

I think part of the intrigue I have for this is the level of information it can give. At our volunteer project sited at Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire, UK we constantly strive to impart our knowledge to our visitors. So many seem as concerned as we are for the plight of the bees and yet we cannot easily show them the fascination of the inside of the hive without risking stings.

This video is from another interested beekeeper and shows some stills over winter 2011 / 2012.  he explains he has removed some data as he was interested in the position of the cluster and the different temperature profiles in different hives – such as polystyrene versus wooden.  With an indication of temperature in different parts of the hive location of the colony should be straightforward in winter without diturbing the colony.  It should also be possible to determine whether there is ny brood present – for example last winter I avoided giving oxalic acid treatment because the bees seemed still to have young. The additional data from a thermal image would be great.

It crosses my mind that if a local beekeeping group had access to such a camera – whether a BKA or a volunteer group such as that which runs our project – then letting others use that camera or lens can gve quite a number of people the extra knowledge that helps them manage their colonies effectively. A continuous recording of thh data is not really necessary.  In winter, a beekeeper thermal imaging safari round the apiaries of several beekeepers could be very interesting.  I wonder whether there is anyone out there who could lend us a camera or lens? Perhaps a supplier or manufacturer would let us borrow one in exchange for photos they could use for advertisement?  FLIR seem to be market leaders, but I wonder whether GOPro have any intention to move into this area?

Certainly it is something I will share with the project at our next meeting.  I doubt we can justify the expense though the help it could provide with our educational remit could be significant. It looks as though the man who posted the thermal images has had to give up beekeeping – read why here


Posted in Apiary improvement, Bee life, Educational opportunities, Technology, temperature, thermal imaging | 1 Comment

More about hive monitoring

I am a volunteer for Hughenden Manor where I began solely as a beekeeper on an entirely volunteer run bee project and became a web editor and newsletter editor.

We have a separate blog about the project on WordPress which we call Hughenden Buzz and we have been experimenting with a market leader, the Arnia Hive monitoring blog entry equipment.  We have been very pleased with it and with the support from Arnia who have been enormously helpful and also who are so knowledgeable about beekeeping so the combination of their expertise has been invaluable. I’d love similar equipment for my own hives but it is way outside my budget.

I am not sure how many beekeepers have experience about the concept of crowdfunding, as many beekeepers I know prefer to be outside with tehir bees rather than indoors playing with technology.  I’ve dabbled in things before, as has my husband.  Typically, small groups have projects for which they need some funding and they describe their project and invite people to give money (which will be returned if their minimum amount is not reached).  This can be from very small amounts to larger ones. Quite often early supporters then receive an extra perk and large sum supporters may have some quite exceptional and rare rewards. For example, some films have been funded this way and large scale supporters can choose to have a  very minor role in the film or meet the famous actors in person.

When I heard about a project based on hive monitoring equipment, and unobtrusive strip which would communicate with an iphone through the excellent Honey Bee Suite blog

I sponsored them with a fairly modest sum (less than £30) for which the perk for the first investors was a free broodminder device.  It seemed a bargain and as they reached higher totals they sent updates to investors and then recently, news they were shipping my broodminder.  There is a small snag. let us call it a snagette. They were only shipping to the US.  As my daughter and family recently emigrated, I’d given their address, and the device is now at their home.  I’ll probably collect it when I go and visit. I’ll need to check it will work for me over here – if not I’ll have to find a Wisconsin beekeeper who’d like to use it.  It will still be interesting to follow even if it isn’t in one of my hives. The original Indiegogo appeal can be found here.


Here is more information about Arnia and Indiegogo.  I’ll add more when I know how the item works. Which may take me several months into next year. Or check out the Honey Bee suite for Rusty’s updates.


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BBC video – how tech can help the honeybee

Our volunteer bee project at Hughenden Manor has the Arnia hive equipment (apart from the scales) and we are still refining our ability to interpret the data. This little BBC video gives a useful overview. BBC video on tech in the beehive

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The memory is failing …

When I put on the supers earlier in the season, I was a little late and hoped that it would mean the colonies would delay any swarm ideas.  I am not obsessive about swarming.  Whe I did my course at MBBKA I remember the leader suggesting that he is always suspicious about people declaring they want non swarmy bees.  The concept seemed to Frank as alien as seedless grapes.

I went a way for a few days after and then, whilst miles away from home, suddenly realised I had forgotten to put on any Queen excluders.  Rather than do a full inspection as the bee inspector was due shortly after I returned, I put in the excluders when I got home, fully expecting the queen to be in the super and laying.

When Karen came and inspected I admitted my folly and she was thorough.  The first hive showed no eggs or queen in the super and Karen observed the god of bees was smiling on me.  I was pessimistic that I could be lucky a second time.  In the first hive, too, there were capped queen cells.  We didn’t see teh queen but Karen commented that if they had swarmed they had left a really good mass of bees behind.  We removed all but 2 queen cells.

At the second hive we found the god of bees really was being kind.  Again no eggs in the super and a good healthy colony.  In fact both colonies looked great. Karen suggested I consider using the drone brood removal method of helping in the varroa battle.  I didn’t do an oxalic treatment this year which Karen said was probably wise because information about temperatures suggested bees were still laying over winter.  The monitors we have at Hughenden Manor certainly indicated a steady 35 degrees in the brood area all over winter and I am close enough to assume that a similar pattern would exist in my own hives.

For the last few years in my area there has been EFB reverberating around so I have had several visits from teh regional bee inspectors.  I’d already arranged the latest visit from Karen before I had the news that there was now an outbreak of AFB locally.  My heart sank but it seemed sensible to wait for karen to inspect as she knew what she was looking for much better than I.  I believe some beekeepers are reluctant to register on Beebase but I cannot understand why.  Every time a bee inspector comes I learn more even though I was trained and work with other beekeepers regularly. As well as information or reassurances passed on verbally, watching someone who is so expert is itself a reminder of best practice.  I have developed some of my own preferences.  I love the clear perspex quilts which Karen comments are good for beginners – am I still a beginner?  It is 5 years since I had my first bees.  I am still useless at seeing queens and just don’t feel like an expert.  In most things in life, I have a sneaky feeling that the best thing is to believe you still have lots to learn.  I hope it helps keep my brain in good order to carry on learning.  I tend to normally have a water spray instead of a smoker though have a spray can of a dfferent product so that in the case of something untoward I have something more discouraging to hand.  When I use a smoker I use some of the fuel pellets and sometimes add lavender to calm them.  I try and visit the bees and just watch them at work so I hope I am reasonably in tune with what they are up to. My back is a real problem so I over winter my bees on just a single normal sized brood box rather than have the extra demands on my back.  I have only lost one colony over winter – they lasted until march a winter or so back and then died.  It was a year when the winter seemed to go on and on so I need to learn from that as I feel that is definitely a colony I should have saved.

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Please help find Arnis Zalkalns

Adventuresinbeeland's Blog

This is not beekeeping related, but I feel the need to write about it.

A visitor to my local area might think we’re celebrating some kind of festival. Yellow ribbons festoon the lampposts and park railings, their cheerful colour waving in the breeze.

But there is nothing to celebrate. A month ago, on the 28th August, a young 14 year old girl named Alice Gross went missing. Like me, she liked walking and had gone out for a long walk alone along the nearby canal running through Hanwell. CCTV footage showed her apparently returning in the direction of home under one of the canal bridges.

At first it seemed hopeful that she might have run away. Perhaps she would return. Posters were put out in Hanwell, in Ealing, in West London generally. Her face smiled out at all the passers by. The yellow ribbons were tied as a sign of hope…

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Life really has got in the way of blog posts

Today I am going to have a catch up.  I started by reading some of my favourite blogs.  Rusty’s wisdom is always worth considering and this one about how much honey to leave for the bees is up to her usual standard.

During my first winter as a beekeeper with just one hive, my mentor suggested I needed to use a brood and a half (or a deep and a super in rusty’s parlance).  He said I should put the super underneath but then when spring came put it above the brood box.  What a mess i got myself in there.  Having started beekeeping late in life and with an already dodgy back, trying to rearrange the boxes turned into a nightmare.  The bees had cemented the frames in the upper box to those in the lower box (obviously there had been no QE between).  I was trying to lift the top brood box clear of the super below and wondered why I couldn’t.  My struggle continued for ages and even in the weak spring sunshine I was perspiring and getting agitated.  No doubt the bees were, too.  Suddenly there was a crash. Some of the lower frames had detached but there were still some attached and nowhere I could place the heavy brood box with its uneven bottom to try and deal with the fallen frames which were in crisis.  Ever since then my bees have overwintered in a single brood box and I leave no super of honey.  My bees are close to my house and they have a good supply of ivy as they go into winter, a sheltered area and south facing aspect.  I have a range of winter flowering shrubs and plants – some late michaelmas daisy, mahonia and more as well as snowdrops.  For Christmas they get some fondant and their proximity means I can monitor them and reach them even if the weather is bad.  I find that splitting a bag of fondant between some recycled takeaway containers means I have a convenient container and as I use ‘quilts’ – sort of clear crown boards – I can quickly take in the state of the colony when I put in or exchange the fondant.  I used this technique for the last few years and my only casualty was a colony that survived until mid March a year or so ago and failed because I relaxed my vigil thinking winter was over.  How I blamed myself for that!  It was that winter that seemed to just keep going – must have been 2012-2013

Nevertheless, Rusty’s advice will cause me to think about my strategy.  i think I will keep to my usual modus operandii, if only in fear of my physical limitations and due to the memory of that first winter.  But take a look at Rusty’s wisdom for yourself.

Posted in General beekeeping, memories, Natural world, Winter | 4 Comments

Up Close and Personal with Chicken Little

Good description of very strange weather

The Song I Live By

When I was a kid, I never understood Chicken Little.  I hated the way he ran around over reacting about something that wasn’t real.  But this week, I knew exactly how he felt.  We had weather that made me think the sky was falling in.  Suddenly, all that I knew to be true in the world, those basic and inviolable laws of nature, were no longer.  The world was completely upside down and it felt like anything could happen.  It felt like the sky could fall in.

Since my last post, the fires in the north have  garnered national media attention.  In typical fashion, the reporting seemed a bit dramatic.  I scoffed when the Huffington post called the fires ‘apocalyptic’.  Yes, sure, the photos are pretty dramatic, but apocalyptic is a strong word.  I shrugged my shoulders when I heard that our air quality was worse than Beijing.  Okay, maybe…

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Another gem from Rusty – this time on laying workers

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In bait hive style, I realise I have a lot to learn

Most beekeepers eventually have bad backs.  Mine was dodgy even before the beekeeping and my garden trolley does help me keep going.  But I don’t inspect if it is having a bad day or so which is why I decided a bait hive was a necessity, to stand a chance of luring a swarm if one occured.  Sometimes I add some lemon grass oil or similar.  I’ve given up buying swarm lure.  My bait hive has some limitations.  It isn’t high up and perhaps it is too close to the original hives.

So I was really intrigued to read in Rusty’s blog about her swarm trap.  I haven’t worked out how to reblog from a non WordPress site so I need to add a link to it – she says it so much better than I.  Perhaps making one in its likeness would be a good idea on this wet Bank Holiday Monday?

Posted in bait hive, Bee life, Swarms, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Is this a Swiss Chalet for bees?

When beekeepers go on holiday, I am afraid they look out for local bees and local honey as well as taking time to admore the scenery.

The first time I spotted what I was convinced was a Swiss version of a bee house I was caught unawares and failed to take a photo.  on subsequent occasions I managed to grab an image – but as I was moving past in a train the photo is not brilliant.

Bee chalet

What do you think?  Is it a building for bee hives, with coloured entrances to avoid drifting?  Or is there another explanation?  If it is, does anyone know where there is a better picture?

I have to admit that I have some concerns about my deduction, but it is odd that the ones I saw were so similar to each other.  Whilst at first sight the building seem tall, they would need to be tall enough for the beekeepers to stand when they dealt with the bees.

This page seems to support my theory

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