What are the best tools to evaluate honey bee health?

The past years have not been easy for beekeepers and for growers who rely on honey bees for pollination services. Varroa mites, extreme weather events, pests and diseases gave beekeepers and bees a hard time. Under these conditions, evaluating the health of bee colonies to predict pollination readiness and prevent colony losses is even more complex and labour intensive. 

Beehive sensors have come onto the market promising to improve some of the workload in evaluation honey bee health. They may provide different types of data on bee colonies, such as the weight of the hives or the internal temperature near the brood nest. In our project “Best practices for evaluation of bee health technology” run by Prof. Andrew Barron, Dr Theotime Colin and Dr Cornelia Sattler and funded through Hort Innovation, we will test these sensors to evaluate the quality of the data and what they can tell us about the health of bee colonies. We will compare different commercially available hive sensor systems against our gold-standard laboratory methods of monitoring honey bee colony health. Our outcomes will be an understanding of what commercially available sensor systems can reveal about hive health and how the data from these systems should be analysed and interpreted.

At the same time, we are running an online survey to understand the needs and expectations of beekeepers and growers within the industry as well as the challenges related to the use of sensor technologies. Based on our survey, we will perform a cost-benefit analysis to measure the benefits or opportunities that sensors offer compared to their associated costs. With this measure, we can test the viability of sensors and determine if they support the needs of beekeepers on an economically reasonable basis. We will provide recommendations to beekeepers on how to use these systems to improve their hive health monitoring.

Take the survey!

If you have thoughts about hive sensors or would like to share your experience, you can join our online survey and help us to understand the needs of beekeepers and growers for new beekeeping technologies. 

Survey link: http://thesmarthivesurvey.com/


  • This project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the Hort Frontiers Pollination Fund research and development levy, contributions from the Australian Government and co-investment from Macquarie University. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.
  • This article was peer-reviewed by Theo Colin and Nadine Chapman.
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