Thermal Infrared Camera Technology Aids Honeybee Health

Utah Among The First To Use FLIR Technology For Bee Inspections

Winter Honeybee Inspection

Online — Most people don’t think of winter as a good time to inspect honey bee colonies, but apiary inspectors at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food are actively inspecting hives this winter, thanks to a partnership with the University of Utah.

The thermal infrared camera winter beehive health inspection program is among the first of its kind nationally and one of many free services available to registered beekeepers to help them better manage their colonies.

Utah’s honey production is valued at about $2 million per year for beekeepers, from nearly 30,000 reported colonies.

The honeybee industry exerts a much larger impact on agriculture as their pollination activities help produce about 30 percent of our food supply.

Utah’s agriculture industry, including production and processing, is valued at more than $17.5 billion.

The U. College of Biology, using a grant from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, has loaned UDAF a thermal infrared camera that allows inspectors to “see” into hives without opening the hives, which may expose living bees to freezing temperatures.

The FLIR thermal infrared camera detects heat signatures in the hive.

If the hive has a strong heat signature they will leave it alone. If they believe the hive is dead or severely compromised they will, with permission of the beekeeper, open the hive, try to determine the cause and take bee samples for analysis.

If foulbrood or another contagious disease is found, inspectors will recommend steps beekeepers can take before the weather warms to prevent the spread of the disease.

Some of the reasons hives die in the winter include Varroamite infestation, Nosema infection, water leaking into the hive from melting snow or ice, snow or another obstruction blocking the entrance, and inadequate nutrition for the winter.

Once the cause of the “dead out” is determined, inspectors will provide beekeepers with a list of steps they can take to avoid future winter losses.

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About UDAF

Created in 1921, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is one of the State’s oldest agencies. It oversees dozens of legislatively mandated programs that promote the healthy growth of Utah agriculture, the conservation of our natural resources and the protection of our food supply.

Follow the activities of the proactive Utah Department of Agriculture on their blog at: