Happy New Year, my bees

(and a review of Flir for bee management)

Happy new year, my bees

[Zachary Huang]

I thought it was to be a warm winter
So I did not bother
To provide you with a cover

Then I heard from the weather forecast
That it would be seven degrees C 
Below zero, quickly I went to see
How many were still alive
On the new year's Eve

My stupid Flir* said most of you had died
Despite the miticide
With which you were supposed to thrive
but when I tried
On the New Year's Day
To move some honey supers
I was pleasantly surprised
To find many were still alive

Out of thirteen colonies 
Twelve were OK
At a temperature of minus 2 C
And in the freezing rain
I wrapped carefully my bees
Gone was the misinformed pain

Happy New Year! My friends, 
I hope you will survive another season
Just like me, despite of the virus
We've got to stay alive and be strong
Until the Lord call us
with His very own reason

(Unlike most others, this one is written directly in English. Now I have to translate into Chinese:))

*Flir, a camera attachment that sees thermal images. 

So I saw that it was going to be -7 (New Year) and -14 (Jan 2, 2022) degrees C the next few days and I took pity to my bees and went to check them using my Flir camera attachment (bought for about $340 a year ago), which connects to my android cell phone and can see the thermal images. I first took photos at the night of New Years Eve, and only 6 colonies were producing heat signatures suggesting bees were alive. 

On New Years day I decided to wrap them and brought only 6 boxes. Then I opened one that I thought it was dead but there were bees! They of course started attacking me on a 30F day. I then opened two more "dead colonies" and they were also alive! It turned out that if a cluster was super centered and on such a cold day, no heat from the cluster would be conducted to the wooden hive body to make it seeable by the Flir.... so in the end I have 11 colonies from this yard, with only one dead (and this one I thought it was alive!). so in the end I have 5 live colonies read as dead by the camera but 1 dead reading as live. Only 4 live ones were correctly read as live. So the false negatives were 5/11 = 45.5%, and false positives were 1/6 = 16.7%. Last year I thought it would be a good tool to use for medium sized beekeepers to gauge their colony mortality, or to "see" if cluster is near the top and deciding whether to provide more food around Jan/Feb. 

It is still possible that the tool could be useful, if at higher ambient temperatures (say 40F), that somehow the cluster is more loose and would be transmitting some heat to the wood.  This remains to be tested. 

1. Photo taken 7:53 pm 12/31/2021, suggesting 6 live colonies (more yellow color was due to higher temperature). 

2. New year’s day, around 11:49 am. After I opened some “dead” colonies and finding them live, I took some pics afterward, now they were visible. Here are four colonies alive. There are some shifting of thermal clusters from the actual hive body, perhaps due to error. The large block of heat was actually from the first colony among the 4 with bricks on top, but right now it overlapped more to the colony to the left of it.

3. The colony to the right of the live one I thought it was also live, but it turned out to be a dead one.

Happy New Year! my human friends also :)

Author: Zachary Huang

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