An Infrared Guessing Game

Here are some quick snapshots I took this morning of my hives using an infrared camera device attached to my cell phone. It doesn’t provide the most helpful readings at the moment, probably because it’s not cold enough outside to highlight the heat that’s radiating from the insides of the hives. I also used the default settings on the device. More precise calibrations might provide me with better images. But for now, here are my best guesses about what’s happening inside my hives according to these infrared images.

My best guess for this 2-deep hive:  the cluster is favouring the top box and there's a crack between the boxes where heat is escaping. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess for this 2-deep hive: the cluster is favouring the top box and there’s a crack between the boxes where heat is escaping. (Oct. 22, 2016.)



My best guess:  the cluster is spanning all three deeps. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess: the cluster is spanning all three deeps. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess:  the cluster is in the 2nd box. The top box is empty, covering a feeder. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess: the cluster is in the 2nd box. The top box is empty, covering a feeder. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess for this 3-deep hive with a hive top feeder: the cluster is in the 2nd box, with some bees accessing the feeder. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess for this 3-deep hive with a hive top feeder: the cluster is in the 2nd box, with some bees accessing the feeder. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess:  the cluster is in the 2nd box, with the top box empty covering a feeder. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess: the cluster is in the 2nd box, with the top box empty covering a feeder. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess: for this 2-deep hive with a hive top feeder:  the cluser is in the top box. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess for this 2-deep hive with a hive top feeder: the cluser is in the top box. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess:  the cluster is favouring the top box. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess: the cluster is favouring the top box. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess for this 2-deep hive with a hive top feeder and ventilation rim on top:  the cluster is practially living in the feeder. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess for this 2-deep hive with a hive top feeder and ventilation rim on top: the cluster is practially living in the feeder. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess for this single-deep hive with a deep covering a feeder:  they're not dead.  Good enough. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

My best guess for this single-deep hive with a deep covering a feeder: they’re not dead. Good enough. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

One side of a double-nuc:  that little hole shows where the heat is coming out. So they're alive. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

One side of a double-nuc: that little hole shows where the heat is coming out. So they’re alive. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

The other side of a double nuc:  no heat coming out of the hole.  Not good. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

The other side of a double nuc: no heat coming out of the hole. Not good. (Oct. 22, 2016.)

Postscript: I haven’t paid much attention to the world of beekeeping recently because my day job and other commitments are sucking up all my time and brain energy. I know there’s some new information flying around about diseases that were found in honey bees that were recently imported to Newfoundland from Western Australia. I’ve got the information but I’m so tired and spent, I just don’t have it in me to give it my full attention, to consider it carefully and write an articulate assessment of the situation. All that business takes the fun out of beekeeping anyway. Even on a good day, it’s not something I’m usually in the mood for. Whether the imported bees are disease-free or not, the most generous opinion I have to offer for now is that I’m not impressed with the people responsible for importing the bees. It was a sneaky move and they know it. I have nothing further to say on the matter until I get all the facts straight and have had time to think it about. But first I need to rest.

2016-10-22-11-42-54

Addendum (Oct. 24, 2016): Two conversations are happening in the responses to this post. To keep help keep them separate, the comments about the Flir One infrared imaging device have been and will be converted to italics.

20 thoughts on “An Infrared Guessing Game

  1. What infrared device are you using, Phillip? Do you think the sneaks read your blog? Do you think they care about bad publicity? They have not been named in public and they have not publicly explained their actions.

  2. I’m using the Flir One for Android, though iPhone versions are available too.

    I doubt the people who imported the honey bees from Western Australia read my blog. But if they do, they should realize that their names will inevitably be revealed, so they may want to prepare for that inevitability. If they didn’t want bad publicity, they shouldn’t have made such a self-serving, underhanded move — because that is exactly how it’s playing out in most people’s minds at the moment. For the greater good of everyone in NL who has a vested interest in beekeeping, they should have invited a discussion on the matter first. The importation may not have been stopped, but at least the beekeeping community could have better prepared for it and, for instance, suggested a quartine procedure that actually meets the definition of a quartine. They’d have to be some seriously slow-witted individuals not to realize that the way they went about it wasn’t going to make them many friends among most beekeepers in NL.

    I know who they are, but I won’t publicly shame them. I’m not going to out them. If the honey bees they imported spread disease across the island, their names will forever be linked to the destruction of possibly the most pristine population of honey bees on the planet. That’s on them. I hope that doesn’t happen. I know the general health of the Western Australian honey bees is excellent compared to that of other honey bee populations (though I doubt any honey bees can compare NL honey bees), so I don’t think it will happen. But it’s difficult to admire anyone who would even take that chance.

  3. Ditto to the above. Those of us who are beekeeping on the Bonavista Peninsula and in the Clarenville region are lucky in that we can take measures to quarantine the rest of the Island (e.g., no imports of any honey bee nucs or queens from the sneaks), but we cannot be self-containing in terms of genetics; not in the long-term. We would sooner or later have to get queens or nucs from Gerard and Andrea-Paige, and there may come a point where their stocks get contaminated. Those of you on the NE Avalon are in a much more serious situation because your honey bee flight zones overlap with those of two of the importers. I would have thought that one of the importers would have been very sensitive to bad publicity because he has a family brand name to protect???? Should I ever have to manage for Sacbrood Virus (SBV) I will forever blame these importers + Agrifoods for the contamination. I will be seeking financial compensation from Agrifoods for any dead-outs that result from SVB contamination. Apart from that, I am still waiting for the importers to explain their actions in public. The upcoming NLBKA AGM will be very interesting with this hot topic on the agenda!

  4. Thank you for all of the posts that you make, concerning beekeeping in Newfoundland. I ‘m not suggesting that you divulge the names of the beekeepers who imported Western Australian bees, but I think that if there is disease in any of these colonies, it would be in the interest of all Newfoundland beekeepers to know who imported the bees and where they are located, so that we are aware and can avoid inadvertently buying any stock from them. I would love to bring into our apiary some new blood, but from where is it safe to buy?. If I don’t know, we will just keep our bees as isolated as possible. Perhaps we could arrange an exchange of queens (or frame of brood) from other beekeepers who are concerned for the origin of the stock.
    All the best,
    Howard Salliss.

  5. Howard. This is one of the reasons why this lack of transparency and failure to consult with the wider beekeeping community is an extremely selfish act. These four beekeepers thought that they would do a risk assessment re. the Western Australian honey bees on behalf of all of us. E.g., WA is “relatively” free of pathogens, hence, there’s a low risk of contamination with pathogens not already endemic. Furthermore, the principal importer (who planned this prior to the 2015 AGM and at least as far back as the spring of 2015) told me that the reason he did not consult is because he thought there was a conspiracy among three other beekeepers (one of whom is commercial) to create a monopoly over commercial beekeeping in the province. If they learned of the WA import plan in advance, they would have agitated against it, and it would have been quashed. This is either a figment of his imagination or a post-hoc excuse/lie for what quickly became an irreversible, unethical decision. We have one or more beekeepers here who are exploring the idea of clean-Queen exports, but this option will evaporate quickly if we cannot demonstrate clean honey bee populations. I expect that the names of these importers will become public sooner or later, but it’s a bit of a waiting game. The longer we wait for this information (publicly), the deeper the hole these folks dig for themselves. I have strongly recommended to the principal importer that he explain himself to the beekeeping community, but to-date, several months later, he remains silent. Draw your own conclusions. I actually think that these importers may be oblivious to negative public opinion; they simply don’t give a shit. In any event, I am concerned about our long term ability to control maverick beekeepers, not just these folks, who are unaccountable to and uncaring of the wider beekeeping community.

  6. I’ve just been given one of those infrared devices and am looking forward to trying it out. The temperatures on your photos are fairly low – too low for brood rearing anyway – and don’t seem to mark the hottest yellow parts. Do you think the hives probably do have brood?

  7. One other point. When our public learns the names of these importers, hopefully they will understand better why this has been an extremely difficult matter for our Association board to deal with. We are a young organization and we didn’t need this shit, certainly not in the early, foundation building phase!

  8. I’m not sure it’s the most useful device yet. The cost of it is beyond anything I’m normally willing to pay, but I have other uses for it, so… that’s my rationale for buying it. At any rate, I need to calibrate the device more precisely so the hottest areas show up better. I also think I’ll get more accurate readings in the dark, preferable before sunrise when ambient heat from the sun is less of a factor. Most of the hive boxes are painted dark green and seem to give off a hotter infrared signature in the daylight than the yellow and white boxes. So the colour of the boxes skews the readings too. In other words, I need to make some adjustments to get better readings. I’m also curious what kind of readings I’ll get once I wrap the hives.

    I don’t think there’s brood in any of the hives, or if there is, there’s not much.

  9. I agree. I don’t envy anyone on the NLBKA’s board who has something like this on their plate right out of the gate. The frustration of dealing with a government agency that won’t openly share information, which gives the perception that the NLBKA is not being transparent, which leads to misunderstandings and disgruntled people all over the place — it’s a clusterf***. The government and the importers simply need to speak publicly and openly about what they’ve done and what they’re doing. It may be in their rights to keep everything to themselves, but they won’t be able to do that for much longer. Once the final results of the testing are in, time’s up. That’s when they need to say something.

  10. All that said and done, people here in Newfoundland and Labrador need to remember that we have had honey bee imports in the past. They didn’t just land on alien space ships and establish themselves here. Wally, Andrea and Paige have been instrumental in building our current stock(s) with all their wonderful characteristics, and this was done with Queen and egg imports, etc. We WILL need to (want to) import again in the future for a variety of reasons that need to be discussed, and we will need to do a risk assessment each time an import is contemplated. However, any import plans MUST be shared with the beekeeping community early on, so that the pros and cons of the particular import plan, the management plan around it, etc. can be properly analyzed, and hopefully agreed to by the vast majority of beekeepers. What needs to be discussed among beekeepers is not just the disease/pest risk matter; we also need to talk about what the introduction of new genetics would do re. the current qualities of our honey bees (e.g., gentile disposition, winter-hardy, economical during winter re. stores, etc.). Alison van Alten will be talking about some of this during her presentations at the upcoming AGM. Should be extremely interesting!

  11. Thank you for your concern Peter. I have to wonder just how many NL beekeepers are concerned about this issue , other than the three of us at this moment. You said to draw my own conclusions, I do, but it isn’t fair to be guessing the importers, and they have not done anything illegal, but this issue goes beyond the letter of the law. The fact the NLBK president doesn’t seem to have a problem with the imports, does also make me wonder!

  12. He does have a problem with the imports. Stay tuned. I have spoken with several beekeepers here who know who the players are and they too are deeply concerned. Stay tuned.

  13. Howard, Peter already responded, but I’d I’ll add this:

    The lack of reliable information is a problem — and it’s why I’ve temporarily removed my two previous posts about this subject. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but it’s hearsay unless it’s an informed opinion. I’m out of it until I know exactly what’s what. But the lack open and honest information from the importers and the lack of detailed information from the government only makes it more frustrating for everyone concerned. The NLBKA’s president needs to maintain good relations with all parties, including the beekeepers who imported the honey bees, so coming out strongly for or against anyone is a difficult situation to deal with. This whole affair has the potential to pretty much destroy the beekeeping association just as it’s trying to get established. Instead of getting together to have friendly meetings with beekeepers across the island, he has to deal with this? I don’t have envy him.

  14. I’m not sold on the Flir just yet. It put it in the same category as many beekeeping peripherals, a non-essential item reserved mostly for people with lots of money to blow, which usually isn’t me, but I’m pretty sure I lost at least one colony last winter and could have prevented the loss if I’d been able to see where the cluster was inside the hive. The cluster got split in two by a frame of bare foundation that I’d forgotten about. That doesn’t make the Flir an essential tool. I’ll make sure never to leave bare foundation in my hives again. But I can see the Flir paying for itself over time, especially considering that it costs me about $300 to replace every lost colony with a new nuc. If I never have to pay for another nuc for as long as I live, it’s worth it.

  15. You’re absolutely right about that Phillip, re. potential to destroy the beekeeping association; which is one of the reasons this has been a hard one to deal with (particularly when two of the importers are prominent beekeepers here in the province). The PEI beekeeping association had a serious disagreement over importation of honey bees from Ontario 2-3 years ago, driven by the commercial blueberry harvesters some of whom are also commercial beekeepers. But at least the importation plan was well-known in advance, fully transparent, and open to debate. They had a vote and the pro-importers won. It pretty much destroyed their association and they are now down to about 25 members all but 2 of whom are commercial, pollinator types, with grey-beards…. This is not want we want in here in NL. We have much to do to build an association, and we need the provincial government as a partner with us in achieving our goals.

  16. Two conversations are happening in the comments to this post. To keep help keep them separate, the comments about the Flir One infrared imaging device have been and will be converted to italics. Speaking of which…

    I took more photos with the Flir One this morning which I plan to upload in another post later on. The Flir One photos could easily overtake everything I post on this blog, so I’ll probably just write up the next post and then continually update it as I continue to experiment with the camera.

  17. The photos I uploaded for this post look okay, but I’ve since tried to take more precise readings with the Flir One so that I can make accurate comparisons between two images, and so far the results are horrible. It basically doesn’t work. Or it’s certainly not obvious how to make precise calibrations of the thermal sensor. I’ll upload some of my tests soon.

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