Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #384535

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Crop and Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems at Multiple Scales

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Beescape: characterizing user needs for environmental decision support in beekeeping

item ROBINSON, ANTHONY - Pennsylvania State University
item PEELER, JAMIE - Pennsylvania State University
item PRESTBY, TIM - Pennsylvania State University
item Goslee, Sarah
item ANTON, KATE - Pennsylvania State University
item GROZINGER, CHRISTINA - Pennsylvania State University

Submitted to: Ecological Informatics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/9/2021
Publication Date: 7/9/2021
Citation: Robinson, A.C., Peeler, J., Prestby, T., Goslee, S.C., Anton, K., Grozinger, C.M. 2021. Beescape: characterizing user needs for environmental decision support in beekeeping. Ecological Informatics. 64:101366.

Interpretive Summary: Honey bees and other pollinators are a necessary part of US and global agriculture, but they face many challenges. Land use change can reduce flower availability, and also reduce nesting opportunities for wild pollinators. Agriculture may increase insecticide exposure. Although these effects have been extensively studied, it is difficult to turn scientific results into knowledge that can be used to support making decisions. We developed a prototype decision support tool called Beescape ( to show how land use affects pollinator success. Thirty beekeepers from a wide range of backgrounds participated in a user study to show us where the tool could be improved, both in content and in presentation. The beekeepers particularly noted where their experience differed from the research results, which may make them less likely to trust the tool but also helps us to identify research needs.

Technical Abstract: Pollinators, particularly managed honey bees, are crucial for global food systems. However, declines in populations of both wild and managed pollinators have been reported across the world. In the United States, approximately 30% of managed honey bee colonies die each year. The factors underlying these losses are well understood and include reductions in the abundance and diversity of flowering plants that pollinators depend on for food, increased insecticide use, and reduced nesting habitat for wild bees. However, translating pollinator research findings into actionable knowledge for beekeepers presents a sizable spatial decision support challenge. In this work we evaluate the utility and usability of a prototype system called Beescape which intends to support environmental decision-making for Beekeepers. Beescape includes tools for exploring and visualizing maps that link to modeled environmental factors that impact bee health. Thirty beekeepers were recruited to take part in an online user study that included task analysis and survey components to elicit user input on areas of improvement for future Beescape development. The results of our study highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with providing decision support systems that attempt to translate emerging environmental science for audiences that may be motivated by a common goal to improve honey bee survival, but who have a diverse range of technical backgrounds, applied practices, and reasons for their interest.