Development of Non-invasive Methods and Systems for the Assessment of Hive Health

Project dates: 01/07/2019 - 31/07/2023

Why it matters

The strength and health of colonies leased from apiarists to growers for pollination services needs to be assured both on delivery to the grower, for their capacity to pollinate crops, and on return to the apiarist. Current practice includes the inspection of colonies by opening a sample of the hives on delivery and return. In addition to incurring a substantial cost, this practice also increases the risk of spreading or exposing the colony to disease, specifically American Foulbrood (AFB). Further, the characteristics of a colony that will deliver effective pollination are not standardised or codified in Australia.

Project Overview

This project aims to develop an industry standard and quality assurance model for ‘colony strength’ for pollination services by combining QUT research on practice in pollination service, sensing technology and analysis of interview and observation data, with Plant and Food (NZ) research on colony strength and crop pollination as part of research trials into honey bee health and crop pollination. The ongoing research conducted into the practice of Australian apiculture has created an award winning paper that has been presented to industry globally.

The project aims to develop an industry standard and quality assurance model for ‘colony strength’ for pollination services for use by both growers and apiarists. The project will evaluate hive sensing technology and investigate the cost/benefits of sensing technology to industry (both growers and apiarists). It will also investigate the use of advanced analytics of the ‘big data’ generated from field testing of sensing technology to define quantifiable standards for hive strength that provide quality assurance for both growers and apiarists. To date, sensor research has discovered links between colony strength and hive temperature which has been documented in this recent paper, allowing the development of non-invasive sensor systems to determine colony population using linear modelling techniques.

Finally, the project will identify useful colony strength standards and develop a Quality Assurance (QA) framework to improve the management of European honey bees for pollination services.

This research has been funded by Hort Frontiers Pollination Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Queensland University of Technology and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit, research and development corporation for Australian Horticulture.


Project Outcomes 



Project video published on TheQUTube, Oct 14, 2021: New QUT research has identified just how much work honey bees put into keeping their beehives a balmy 35 degrees year-round – and how changes to hive design and better beekeeping practices could save them valuable time and energy.

Project video published by @ErinEdwards7, 7NNEWS Brisbane, Oct 9, 2021


Centre for Agriculture and Bioeconomy Talk: Beyond Honey: Improvements in beekeeping to optimize pollination and food security. Passcode: Beetalk123!

Dan Cook Final seminar video summarising research:      

Passcode: v!fbuS9*



Cook, D., Blackler, A., McGree, J., & Hauxwell, C. (2021). Thermal Impacts of Apicultural Practice and Products on the Honey Bee Colony. Journal of Economic Entomology, 114(2), 538-546. [toab023].

Cook, D., Tarlinton, B., McGree, J. M., Blackler, A., & Hauxwell, C. (2022). Temperature Sensing and Honey Bee Colony Strength. Journal of Economic Entomology.

Thesis associated with project:

Cook, Daniel L. (2022) An examination of pollination products and practice in Australian apiculture. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.

Project Team

Principal Researcher

Prof. Thea Blackler, QUT Design Lab

Associate Researchers

Dan Cook

Chief Investigators