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Ongoing project

Development of non-invasive methods and systems for the assessment of hive health (PH17001)

Key research provider: Queensland University of Technology

What’s it all about?

The strength and health of bee colonies used for pollination need to be assured both on delivery to the grower, for their capacity to pollinate crops, and on return to the beekeeper. Current practice includes the inspection of colonies by opening a sample of the hives on delivery and return. This task can be expensive and time-consuming, and may increase the risk of spreading or exposing the colony to disease.

This project is developing knowledge about the characteristics of a colony that will deliver effective pollination across different horticulture crops, to enable quality assurance models to be developed for growers and beekeepers alike. The project is also set to test available hive sensing technologies to evaluate if they are fit for purpose. 

Field work will be conducted on crops including almonds, avocados and blueberries.


Watch this presentation developed by the research team which looks at Improvements in beekeeping to optimize pollination and food security. You can use the below password to access the presentation: 

Password: Beetalk123!

Through this research, an online tool will be made available auditors, apiarists, orchardists, and the public as open-source software. It provides accessible, rapid, and accurate hive auditing based on photographic records of hives, including a rapid ‘cluster count’ approach. It provides a tool for hive auditing for the ‘next generation’ of auditors and training for new brokers and auditors, apiarists, and orchardists.

A video outlining the method is now available on YouTube here.

The research team has continued their work evaluating current standards of colony strength, as well as determining the specific requirements of both growers and apiarist for colony assessment. A number of trials are underway, and the results will be available in the next reporting period.

A range of sensing technologies is being tested in the apiary against standard auditing procedures. Temperature, humidity, bee transit, hive weight, and infra-red sensing cameras are compared with full frame-by-frame (FOB) audits and Number of Frame (NOF) audits.

Detailed comparisons of auditing procedures, the proportion of pollen foragers and total foragers numbers over a range of temperatures, times of day and colony strength were completed, analysed and described in a PhD thesis, submitted for final examination. A critical review and revision of the calculations that underpin hive standards was completed.