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

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.

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 apiculture, sensing technology and analysis of interview and observation data, with Plant and Food research on colony strength and crop pollination as part of research trials into honey bee health and crop pollination.

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.

The project will identify measurable colony strength standards and develop a Quality Assurance (QA) framework to improve 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.

PRINCIPAL RESEARCHER

Prof. Thea Blackler, QUT Design Lab

ASSOCIATE RESEARCHERS

Dan Cook