Beyond inspections: follow your apiary in real time

Precision beekeeping is characterized by real-time apiary monitoring. This is useful at any time, as well as 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.

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.
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.
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.


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.

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