While beekeeping can be tough, the wonders of modern technology is making it more efficient than ever to make sure your bees are okay, and that you’re getting the best results. It’s also making it easier just to check your bee’s general wellbeing.
If the use of thermal Imagery is something you’re interested in for your bee colonies, but you’re not sure what it is or where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re going to explore everything you need to know.
How heat is converted into images
Firstly, let’s explore how these thermal imagery cameras actually work so you can understand what benefits they can bring into your beekeeping practices. To cut a long story short, a thermal imagery camera takes heat signals and turns these detections into electronic signals that can be recorded and visually displayed on a viewing monitor.
We’ve all seen these cameras in action. If you’ve ever seen a spy movie or a nature documentary, you’ll have seen the cameras where you can see what you’re looking at, with the hottest parts of the images in red, warm areas in yellow, and then the coolest parts in blue.
In some cases, two cameras are used, a traditional camera and a thermal imaging camera which then take the same image and then overlays the content over the top of each other so you can see exactly where the heat is coming from.
Using heat imagery during the winter
We all know that winter is the hardest time of the year to keep bees, and it can be a struggle to understand what’s going on inside the hives and colonies without disrupting them and releasing the heat that’s keeping them alive.
However, you may get to the spring months and notice that your bee colonies didn’t make it through the winter season. So what are you supposed to do? Well, by using thermal cameras you can see where the heat within your hives is escaping and act accordingly. By seeing where the holes are and where insulation is needed, you can be proactive in helping your bees to survive and thrive during the winter months.
How to isolate infected bee colonies
Discovering the viability of your bee colonies is one of the most important tasks you’ll try to complete and how well your colonies are going to grow. Using thermal imagery cameras, you’ll be able to locate clusters of bees inside your hives, no matter where they are, discovering the bees that don’t interact with others.
You can then act accordingly to help these bees re-join the rest of the group and become viable. In some cases, you may find clusters of bees which have weaker heat signatures which may indicate their inability to breed.
In addition to bringing your bees back together, you can also use thermal imagery cameras to isolate bees that are diseased and need to be separated.
“For example, in both European and American foulbrood bees, thermal imagery cameras are used to keep bees apart and helps to identify areas of the hive that might have collapsed during winters or have contaminated honey. By locating these areas, you’ll be able to ensure that your hives stay healthy when you head into the winter months” explains Billy Turner, a beekeeping blogger.
Using thermal imagery cameras means you can find out all this information without any need to take off the roof of the hive, disturb your colonies or the clusters, and most importantly, not get stung, which leads us nicely to our next point.
Thermal imagery doesn’t disrupt the bees
As we’ve spoken about many times above, using thermal imagery cameras means you’ll be able to see everything that’s going on within your beehives without having to take the roof of the hive and disturb the bees inside.
By disrupting the bees, you can cause stress to them, which can damage their health and wellbeing, which it’s especially important to retain during the winter months. If you open the roof, you can let all the heat out of the hive created by the colony, and this can lead to fatal consequences.
With this level of control over your hives, you’ll be able to lessen the risk of infestations in the spring and summer months, especially since parasites tend to live in their hosts. If the host bees die during the winter months, the parasites will die with them, ensuring the continued survival of the rest of your colonies.
Keep records to improve the future
The final point you’ll need to know when it comes to using thermal imagery cameras with your beehives is being able to track and record the health and viability of your colonies. You can do this in the form of recording temperature differences and by jotting any visual observations you make along the way.
You’ll also be able to record where new clusters of bees appear. During the winter months, this is so important because you’ll be able to see how your hive heaters are working and where they need to be to ensure the maximum chances for survivability. You’ll also be able to ensure you heat your hives up to the right temperature rather than just estimating.
Remember, thermal imagery cameras are cameras, so you can easily print out photos for future reference to help protect against problems in the future. For example, if you have an infestation, take a photo and then use this as your baseline so you can quickly detect this problem emerging again in the future.
A thermal imagery camera suits me because I live in a colder country where I can easily take quite useful images due to the contrast in temperatures between the hive and its surroundings, without any false positives. However, the thermal imagery camera can also be used in places like deserts, at night when there is less ambient heat, to check how well the hive is insulated.
Ashley Halsey has been involved in many projects to help farmers and beekeepers get the most out of their experiences. Mother of two children, she enjoys traveling, reading, and attending motivational speeches.