Zapping Beehives With an Infrared Laser Gun Thermometer

A thermal imaging video I posted yesterday shows where my bees are clustering inside their hives, more or less. The video was created by combining high-resolution footage from my cheap cell phone camera with low-resolution footage from my expensive Flir One For Android thermal imaging device. But I also have one of these nice and cheap devices advertised as: “Infrared Thermometer Laser Industrial Temperature Gun Non-Contact with Backlight -50-380°C(NOT for Humans).”

Laser Gun Thermometer.

I wanted to see if the laser gun — which is about 25 times cheaper than the cheapest Flir One device — might work just as well as a thermal imaging device. Yeah, I know it won’t work as well, per se, but is it good enough for my backyard beekeeping brethren on a budget? I’ll tell you right now, the answer is maybe. Maybe even probably.

I know where the clusters — also known as a big ball of bees — are located in my hives. Most of the bees are clustered near the top of the hives, but at least one ball of bees is clustered at the bottom of the hive. Considering that heat will naturally rise to the top, you might think all the hives would be warmer up top regardless of the location of the cluster. But the answer is nope. The hive with the bottom cluster was cold up top and warm on the bottom.

Low cluster (Jan. 14, 2021.)

The readings I took today may vary depending on local conditions and other factors that I mention in the video (and probably some that I forgot to mention). It was 2°C / 36°F when I took the measurements today. It was cloudy, cold and damp, like it had been all day. I plan to take more measurements just to see how well they coincide with today’s measurements. I will take measurements at night (maybe even tonight if I don’t fall asleep first) when it’s a bit colder. But I will also take measurements on a much colder day to see how much of the heat from the cluster bleeds through to the outside of the hive. Today was relatively warm, so the difference in temperature readings may not have been as great.

The measurements I took today showed that the average surface temperature of a hive in the location of the cluster was 2°C warmer (3.6°F) than the empty portion of the hive — whether or not the cluster was located at the bottom or top of the hive.

High cluster (Jan. 14, 2021.)

When I get around to taking more measurements, I’ll add them as updates to this post. But my preliminary test using the Laser Gun Thermometer to determine the location of the cluster shows that, yeah, it might work as a cheaper alternative to a thermal imaging device.

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