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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » Carl Hayden Bee Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #404701

Research Project: Quantifying and Reducing Colony Losses from Nutritional, Pathogen/Parasite, and Pesticide Stress by Improving Colony Management Practices

Location: Carl Hayden Bee Research Center

Title: Next-generation colony weight monitoring: A review and prospectus

item MCMINN-SAUDER, H - The Ohio State University
item COLIN, T. - Macquarie University
item GAINES DAY, H.R. - University Of Wisconsin
item QUINLAN, G. - Pennsylvania State University
item SMART, A,. - University Of Nebraska
item Meikle, William
item JOHNSON, R.M. - The Ohio State University
item SPONSLER, D.,B. - University Of Wurzburg

Submitted to: Apidologie
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/7/2023
Publication Date: 1/22/2024
Citation: McMinn-Sauder, H., Colin, T., Gaines Day, H., Quinlan, G., Smart, A., Meikle, W.G., Johnson, R., Sponsler, D. 2024. Next-generation colony weight monitoring: A review and prospectus. Apidologie. 55. Article 13.

Interpretive Summary: Continuous hive weight data has many kinds of information in it. Weight changes within each day show bee foraging activity and foraging success. Weight changes over longer periods of time, such as months or seasons, show colony growth and decline, and overall nectar foraging success. Weight changes across regions can show the foraging potential of different landscapes. Hive weight data can also show the effects of disease or other problems. This article reviews ways to analyze and interpret hive weight data to extract information on colony growth, health and activity, and how to link the weight data to landscape factors such as the flowering of different plants.

Technical Abstract: Healthy honey bee colonies follow predictable patterns of weight change through the season, gaining weight when resources are abundant and losing weight during periods of scarcity. Divergence from this pattern can indicate trouble in the colony, necessitating beekeeper intervention. While colony weight monitoring has long been used to evaluate colony progress and diagnose potential problems, research has been limited by the labor associated with manual weight measurements. The introduction of next generation colony weight monitoring permits the collection of hive weight data continuously and remotely, enhancing potential in the questions that can be answered with these data. However, there is currently no central guide for researchers hoping to use hive scales in their research. Here, we review the literature and describe current methods used to process and analyze diel and seasonal colony weight changes. Diel weight dynamics are based around the circadian rhythm of the colony, resulting from the departure and arrival of foragers and the intake, consumption, and dehydration of food stores. Seasonal weight dynamics can be used to assess colony survival and productivity, often in relation to large-scale patterns of climate, landscape, and floral resource phenology. In addition to describing methods, we highlight future applications of hive weight monitoring, including monitoring weight across ecological gradients and physiological time, coupling of weight monitoring with other colony monitoring techniques, and the use of weight monitoring in commercial beekeeping operations. This paper serves as a tool for those wishing to conduct research using colony weight monitoring, and guides the future of remote weight monitoring in honey bee research.