Beekeeping By Numbers

Shard Hive Monitor (2)_edited-1
High-Tech Shard Hive Shows Off To Its Namesake

It’s time to own up to a little experiment. This winter, I fitted each hive with a £3.85 (batteries and shipping from China included) Temperature/Humidity monitor. The plastic sensor sits on top of the cluster, just below the crownboard under the metal hive roof, linked by wire to a digital screen which displays the data. The idea was that this would give me something to mull over during the 3 or more months of “no-go” winter beekeeping, when the bees are best left to start the spring-build up on their own, unmolested.

So how’s it going ? Well, it’s thrown up some fascinating results:

Shard and Thames Hives have broadly similar readings : 23.0C and 45% Humidity and 21.5C and 52% Humidity, respectively.

But Abbey Hive is dramatically different: 13.5C and 62% Humidity. A Temperature of just 13.5C  – what’s going on here ?

Let’s take a moment to recap the location of the Bermondsey Street Bees’ hives: 4 floors up on a windy rooftop, sitting on a fine wire mesh floor amidst swirling winds and an ambient temperature of 5C-ish.

Two thing to bear in mind straight away. Firstly, any temperature reading inside the hive which is above the outside temperature is a sign of life. Secondly, I bet that the readings from Shard and Thames are warmer than your own home! But there is a clear gap between the Temperature readings between toasty Shard and Thames Hives and chilly Abbey Hive. That’s a concern.

My guess is that the Queen Scarlett in Shard Hive and Queen Primrose in Thames Hive have started laying in earnest and that the bees have raised the temperature of the colony to accommodate the needs of the spreading brood nest. The pattern of debris from the varroa boards (more about varroa at the end of this week) under the mesh floors of the hives suggests that this is indeed happening.

In Abbey Hive, I suspect that either the venerable Queen Amber has yet to come into lay or, perish the thought, that she has not survived the Winter. The minimal debris from Abbey’s varroa board suggests that this colony is still clustered, conserving energy.

All this means that I must be vigilant about Abbey Hive this Spring.

So what  have learnt so far from my gizmos ? I am not a great believer that technology automatically improves the outcomes of your endeavours  (heck, I don’t even wear a watch and my mobile is from Tesco’s!). But I do believe that information, properly gathered and intelligently assimilated, can enhance decision-making-processes. Even in the gentle craft of beekeeping.

4 Replies to “Beekeeping By Numbers”

  1. Excellent. I name my hives too but people think I am mad for doing so. They are named after muppets; I do name some of the queens but only if they show a character trait of some sort or something to name them after.

    I have those sensors too I started out using them on the bees but they kept propolising the sensor til it didn’t read accurately. I have since got some other ones that are not possible to block up in that way but they only do temperature and not humidity. Ho hum…

    1. Hi Nick, Thanks for the heads-up on propolis! I have one sensor on Thames Hive which will only read for 10 minutes with a new battery and then conks out. Luckily, I have been on a course of imperfection inoculations all my adult life, so I am pretty tolerant of disappointment. Ho, as you correctly observe, and indeed, hum.

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