Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

Winter Bee Inspections Help Keep Utah Agriculture Buzzing Along

To keep Utah's agriculture industry buzzing along, it takes healthy bee populations. Honey bees and other pollinators play a vital role in roughly 30 percent of all agricultural crops. But each winter in Utah nearly 30 percent of our managed bee colonies die from a combination of poor management, parasites and disease, according to Kristopher Watson, pest survey entomologist, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF).

 But that's where a partnership between UDAF and the University of Utah comes in. The U's Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund granted the biology department on campus money to buy a FLIR infrared camera. The College of Biology has in turn loaned it to UDAF to aide in winter beehive inspections. Often it's hard to know in the winter if your bee colonies are alive or dead. If a beekeeper opens a live hive in freezing or near freezing temperatures, there is a strong chance many or all of the bees will die from exposure to the cold. The IR camera detects heat signatures in the hive. If there is a strong enough heat signature present, the colony should survive the winter and inspectors will leave the hive alone. If there is little or no heat detected by the camera, inspectors will, with the beekeeper's permission, open the hive, look for indications of why the bees died, and take samples back to the lab to test.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 UDAF hopes to educate beekeepers about things they can do to better keep their bees alive through the winter, and prevent the spread of foul brood and communicable bee diseases by removing contaminated hives. For more information, or to schedule an inspection, call 801-538-4912.

Watch our video on the camera and the winter bee inspection program.

ABC 4 Utah's story from the IR camera demonstration.

KSL.com publicized our winter inspection program on their website.