For years I have gauged spring’s arrival on when my apricot tree blooms. This year it bloomed at the usual time, late March. Normally the tree’s ambitious entry into the new season does not match nature’s plan and frost often kills the buds. I rarely get to enjoy the delicious productivity of the tree but this year’s fruit set is solid and the developing fruit is so far, not frost damaged. So why do I ramble on about my apricot tree?
Hive health indicators and the associated equipment has changed little in the last fifty years. Beekeepers use the same hive design, smokers, protective gear, extractors and so on. We face continuing issues with disease and pests. Treatment and research is helping us stay even but not get ahead of these problems.
What is new to beekeeping is data availability and the use of electronic tools to gather this data. The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs), and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
One such device is a integrated system of internal and external temperature, humidity, and weight sensors that gathers data and uploads this data through cellular or WiFi connections. Through a generous agreement with BroodMinder , my training yard now has a BroodMinder Citizen Science Kit system installed. The ability to gather data from a hive and upload it provides the training participants with a sentinel hive. They can extrapolate these internal and external environmental factors to their bee yards. For example, the equipment recorded a weight loss when we made nucs using 3 frames from our IoT connected hive. The recorded temperature also dropped due to the hive being opened. When the brood temperature is maintained in range, it can be assumed that brood is healthy.
My apricot tree sentinel system is right – spring is well under way. The sentinel hive’s weight is increasing as nectar flow steadily increases. The brood temperature is reported in range and the humidity is under control. This is much more precise information than I got before and is helping me discuss what the hive is doing. My apricot tree doesn’t provide this level of detail. This year it should yield a bounty of apricots if frost doesn’t freeze my dreams. At least I’ll have the data on when the frost occurred. It will be interesting to see if nectar flow also slows if there is a frost.