Precision apiculture provides apiarists and researchers with an advanced insight into the health and productivity of a bee colony, and the environmental influences on such. Hive weight change indicates the beginning and end of the nectar flow; when the honey supers are full; when winter feeding is required; the occurrence of swarming and robbing event; and changes in colony strength and productivity. Healthy honey bee colonies maintain a stable internal hive environment. The stenothermic nature of the honey bee brood requires strict thermoregulation of the hive within the range of 32–36°C. Pupae exposed to prolonged temperatures below 32°C will show high incidence of shrivelled wings, and leg and abdomen malformations, while adults may display behavioural abnormalities. A relative humidity of below 50% in the brood cells causes a significant reduction in brood reproductive rates, conversely high humidity has been shown to increase the percentage of brood mummification caused by chalk brood.
ICT have developed the beehive meter for precision remote monitoring of these key internal parameters. To calculate both the diurnal variations in hive weight and calculate daily weight gains and losses a scale resolves total hive weight to ±1g (<120kg). Hive thermoregulation is monitored using internal and external measurement of brood temperature and humidity. Data is logged to the ICT Universal Telemetry Hub (C-Node) and transmitted to a cloud based server via the GSM network. An optional satellite communications upgrade is available for servicing apiaries located outside of the GSM network range. The C-Node logging and telemetry system is supported by a 20W solar panel, which charges the internal battery for continuous data collection. The ICT HUB offers the potential to expand monitoring to measure a range of meteorological and environmental variables, including sap flow (SFM1) and water potential (PSY1) for hydration status of the vegetation where the bees are foraging.
Data is now accessible to researchers and students remotely through a secure Dataview Software. Graphs can be generated for selected periods for trend observation and comparative analysis of data within a colony as well as between different colonies. Hive weight show clearly defined diurnal patterns as foragers leave and return to the hive. Brood temperature data shows thermoregulation of the hive within between 32.2 – 35.9°C as winter temperatures fluctuate between 1 – 16°C; humidity is maintained between 53 – 61% with external humidity fluctuations of 42 – 100%.