USDA-ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Centre (CHBRC) in Tucson Arizona conducts research to optimise the health of honeybee colonies through improved nutrition and control of Varroa mites in order to maximise production of honeybee pollinated crops. Continuous monitoring of honeybee colonies unit lead by Dr W.G. Miekle has used sensors to model bee colony dynamics and to monitor bee health productivity and performance. While the centre is probably most noted for its use of continuous weight data which has given invaluable insights into colony growth and consumption, swarming, weather effects and hive abandonment, we have been exploring the possibility to integrate the iPollinate optoelectronic sensor into their well-established monitoring structure.
In March 2023, following successful trials In California’s almond pollination setting, sixteen sets of iPollinate foraging monitoring units were brought to CHBRC in Tucson for implementation and evaluation. USDA-ARS has a long history of research and improvement of different honeybee queenliness, Russian and Pol-Line being the current interests of study. Our aim was to integrate the two streams of data, those of continuous hive weight monitoring with the precise foraging activity measured by the iPollinate optoelectronic sensor (bee counter) to further our understanding of differences between genetically diverse populations of honeybees. In particular, insights into the foraging activity and hence the pollination efficacy of different queenlines has the potential to inform decisions relating to optimising pollination in crops.