Thermal Thursday

By The Beekeeper /

Any information on the health of the hive can be beneficial. Several years ago, I began using FLIR cameras as a diagnostic winter device. Thermal imaging is one of the only tools you may have at your disposal when it is too cold to open and inspect the bees. Unfortunately, due to the season, options are limited to correct any dire circumstances. Having said this, if there were a warm spell, you could quickly expose the colony to feed them if you knew they were low on resources.

I winter my bees in North Carolina with one “deep” (also known as the brood chamber) and one medium honey super. So the bees have enough resources to survive the cold weather, I confirm the super is filled with honey by September. The super is situated above the deep. The bees with their queen enter the fall located in the brood chamber. As the bees eat through their reserves, they move up in the hive.

The above thermal image is of hives #5 and #9. Light and dark blue represent cold. Point of fact, the dark blue is actually snow outside the hive. Orange and yellow depict the bees inside the hive clustered around and warming their queen. White depicts bees heavily clustered and producing a strong heat signature. Several nights ago, the outside temperature went down to -3°. The bees in both hives can be seen clustering for warmth. Hive #9 on the right has a strong presence in the lower third. The heat signature radiates up through the hive. This is good. The girls are still in their brood chamber and if they are accessing their honey reserves, it is minimal. The left colony, hive #5 is strongly clustered near the top of the super. No bueno. They are already in their reserves and may starve to death before forager bees can access spring nectar sources. It was unseasonably warm today which gave me the opportunity to open hive #5. Opening hives in the dead of winter does not make for happy bees. They demonstrated this by stinging me, but I was able to place several full frames of honey into the super so they had the necessary resources to survive.


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