suivi du rucher en temps réel

Beyond inspections: follow your apiary in real time

suivi du rucher en temps réel

Beyond inspections: follow your apiary in real time

Precision beekeeping is characterized by real-time apiary monitoring. This is useful at any time, even for carrying out the yearly review. This article presents a detailed analysis of three apiaries monitored throughout the 2019 season.

 

In an apiary as in life there are hives that are doing well, hives on average and others under poor condition. The beekeeper, as a good breeder, accompanies each colony to help it express its full potential.

The specificity of beekeeping compared to other breeding professions is to work with a super-organism. Conduct a colony that is not eye-visible and has a very variable development. This is the challenge for the beekeeper. In two weeks a colony can cross several states: accelerate or decline everything is possible.

Within an apiary, each hive follows its own dynamics. Generalizations are not very effective in beekeeping and it is necessary to manage – to the colony – to express the best of each one.

To face these constraints, beekeepers do inspections every 15 days on average. Two weeks in the life of a super-organism is far from being two weeks in the life of any other animal. The production of an entire season can be decided in 15 days, natural reproduction (swarming) can be triggered in 15 days. A colony that has 3,000 bees in February will have 60,000 in July: this is +2000% in 6 months, or about +166% every 15 days.

In the past, climatic and environmental hazards were less present and it was possible to practice calendar beekeeping. Those days are gone. Monitoring every 15 days has become the compromise that the beekeeper adopts to run his farm in a more or less profitable way.

Concept de suivi du rucher en temps réel

Precision beekeeping – a new paradigm

To ensure proper monitoring of the colonies, being informed in real time becomes a real asset. Know what happens to act at the right time. Precision beekeeping brings a radically different conception to calendar beekeeping. The inspection concept is reversed: You’re no longer heading to the apiary to diagnose but to act directly because the diagnostic has been made beforehand.

At Mellisphera we have developed algorithms to monitor colony development in real time throughout the season. It is now possible to know the brood level of each hive without opening it.

For the beekeeper, it is an excellent decision-making tool that allows him to quantify the situation at any time, ensure the health of his colonies have an improved risk management.

Valeurs et non-valeurs d'un rucher suivi en temps reel

Let’s look at this apiary with 5 monitored hives. While they all had a relatively tight start at the beginning of the season, on April 9 the breakaway squad started. The games are done at that moment, with those that will go into production and those that will not take off. The RHH green hive is the result of a division and has a delayed start, later in the season.

The best hives succeed in developing their brood quickly and maintain a good level throughout the season. The others will live for 3 months and eventually recover at the end of the season. Those will endure one or more descents with brood losses, swarming, changing queen, etc..

 

Each apiary has its own dynamics

The potential of this tool is multiplied when comparing several apiaries together. In our case three apiaries of three different beekeepers located at less than 40km apart from each other. They benefit from the same weather overall, (see the article “the case of the hive5” on this subject). However, depending on the local setup, resources and practices of the beekeeper, their trajectory will be completely different.

Suivi en temps reel de trois ruchers

Apiary A started in March, Apiary B in April and Apiary C in May. The process is quite similar: those who thrive, those who survive and those who stumble. At the end of the season, after the harvest, the descent of the brood is also different. For apiaries A and B it is moderate for C very accentuated… because of a very concrete reason that will be the subject for our next post.

Conclusion

We have seen that each apiary has a characteristic development. At the same time, each hive follows its own path. Precision beekeeping is based on knowledge of these dynamics. Real-time monitoring of the apiary gives the beekeeper increased visibility on his livestock. Resulting in a more relevant and informed decision-making.

With those new accurate practices, the beekeeper ends up wondering how he was doing, at the time when he was recording information every 15 days….


To go further

Colony dynamics is not a new topic. This 1996 report from the Swiss Bee Research Centre provides further details. We particularly recommend reading its conclusion.


blooming and honeydew

Blooming and honeydews

blooming and honeydew

Blooming and honeydews

One aspect that makes beekeeping an interesting practice is that it immerses you into nature. You become an informed observer of the ecosystem because you and your bees depend on it.

At the end of your first season you easily assimilate the blooming calendar: in March cherry trees, in April apple trees and rapeseed. May is for robinia and June for chestnut and lime tree. Then in August it’s the famine … This careful monitoring of your natural environment allows you to perceive events that go unnoticed to the uninitiated.

Flowers vs honeydew : necessary but not sufficient condition

Having flowers does not necessarily imply the existence of nectar, therefore resources for bees. The honey is conditioned by many factors: the ambient temperature and humidity, the last rains and their intensity, the depth of the roots for plants such as rapeseed or sunflower, etc.

The honeydew is neither acquired nor easy to identify. Especially since you will not stand guard under your neighbor’s apple tree to see when they come foraging!

To measure is to understand

A weight sensor installed under the hive will give you much more detailed information. At a glance it becomes possible to follow the honeydews, their intensity and also the periods of scarcity.

Beyond the fun aspect, it is a real decision-making tool that allows you to judge the appropriate moment to install a new supper or, on the contrary, to support a colony lacking reserves. .

Data transforms the practice of beekeeping. Our understanding of the surrounding environment becomes more precise, more intense.

Fig1: honeydew calendar for a beehive. Green dots indicate incoming resources, while reds indicate weight loss. Their size is proportional to the amount gained or lost.


The case of hive #5

The case of hive #5

Our hive R5 which in 2018 had achieved a beautiful acacia honeydew does not seem very successful in 2019. While during inspections it seemed to develop well, the results are clear: 4.9kg against 15.8kg produced last year. The daily detail is given below:

The hasty beekeeper would attribute this fall in production to a honeydew lack, or to a queen in decline. “It worked well last year and must go down this year,” he (or she) would say.

That said, let’s see what the data says.

First of all, the state of brood

Our hive has excellent vitality, it displays a brood temperature at 35 °C ultra-constant all along April. Without inspecting it we can assure that it has at least 4 frames of beautiful brood. There was no swarm either during the period.

  • No, the queen is not declining.

Next, compare with peers

We are fortunate to have two other hives equipped with sensors in an apiary B just 2.6km as the crow flies. Hives R17 and R26 also have a fully developed brood like the R5 : We can compare these three colonies together and notice that finally, R17 and R26 are much better: + 7.2kg and + 10.5kg respectively.

Although the levels are different, the daily trends are quite similar between the three hives (see below) with red days and rather green days (they must all subscribe to Waze for bees?).

  • No, there’s no honeydew defect

So far, we can rule out as possible causes : 1/ aging queen and 2/ lack of resources.

What about the weather?

Normally the weather should not be the cause either. The two apiaries are very close and at this level the climatic conditions are identical. However, … let’s look at the maximum daily temperatures in each of the apiaries:

Very clearly, apiary A in which R5 is located is in a cooler environment than apiary B.

The average maximum temperature in April 2019 is 18.2°C in A and 21.2°C in B. A three degrees gap that seems to make all the difference.

The 20.5°C reached in 2018 on apiary A, seems to corroborate the hypothesis that the key parameter of our analysis is the sun exposure of the apiary. Indeed, it turns out that apiary A is in a wood under a cover of acacia plant, while apiary B is also in woodland but in the middle of a clearing.

Concluding remarks

Finally, the sun exposure of the apiary was at the origin of the production decrease of the hive 5. The bees were present, the resources and the weather too. But not the sunshine. In average April 2019 was 2°C cooler than April 2018 and this difference in local maximum average temperature had a strong impact in this apiary.

Apiary A

Apiary B


digital beekeeping - apiculture numérique

Precision Beekeeping 101

You have probably heard about Hive Monitoring technology. This is a part of a broader concept usually referred as Precision Beekeeping.

Precision Beekeeping adopts a systemic view of the beekeeping practice. It’s a coherent integration of a set of useful information for the beekeeper.

The four pillars

Generally speaking, precision beekeeping sits on four pillars:

  • bee colonies, with its vital parameters
  • environment, with meteorological and blooming events
  • beekeeper, who observes and acts
  • community, that opens the field for a deeper understanding.

Only when these four sources of information are linked can the system be approached as a whole. It then becomes possible to design relevant services.

  • Knowing the onset of a honeydew is useful information for the beekeeper. Being able to link it with the surrounding flowering and former blooming history is much better.
  • A hive with a declining brood temperature is annoying information pointing to a brood loss. Being able to link it with the beekeeper's recent operations or with the dynamics of the neighboring hives is much better.

Provide actionable information

The ultimate goal of precision beekeeping is to provide the beekeeper with actionable information.

This means information that is quickly understandable because it is expressed in the jargon of the profession, contextual, relevant at the given moment and opening the possibility for an action or a remedy.

In this state of mind, commercial beekeepers have a new lever to optimize their operations. As for backyard beekeepers, they can count on a guide to improve their practice, if they are initiating, or push their research and experiment further for the most advanced of them.

In all the cases the practice of beekeeping is transformed. It is more intense, more relevant and more precise.

A sixth sense

Digital tools do not extract the beekeeper from nature. On the contrary, they provide a new way to better understand events that are unfolding too often far-off our five senses.