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Using Thermal Imaging for Beekeeping

09/21/22- Beekeeping is getting more and more high-tech......... and thank goodness for that! It feels like beekeeping is the last industry (please don't write me on all the others) to adopt change and technology into hives, tools, and all the other aspects of beekeeping that could gain from technology. Take the hive for an example, almost all of you reading this have bees in a 3/4" pine box invented well over 100 years ago. Some companies like Hyper Hyve, a smart insulated beehive (to be) are trying to change this, and in a time cars are ACTUALLY driving themselves, it's about time we beekeepers start leaning on tools of technology to make our jobs easier, more efficient, and often more enjoyable.

FLIR TG267 Thermal Image Camera for Beekeeping
FLIR TG267 Thermal Image Camera

Modern FLIR Guns for Beekeeping

Thermal image scanning of your hives can be a great tool in the Winter months for checking on hives and helping determine the need for intervention. Opening up beehives the old fashion way, to see how things are going can be a death sentence for a weak hive already struggling to survive with the introduction of all that cold air. This cold air will also negatively affect a normally healthy hive and could also compromise its health.

This scanning in Winter will allow you to know which hives need supplemental feeding that can be accomplished without needing to open the hive up fully by feeding with entrance feeders or bucket feeders allowing you to leave the inner cover on and helping the hive retain most of the heat it has generated within the hive.

The downfall of these modern techniques is the cost of the thermal imaging unit. As pictured above is the FLIR TG267 which sells on Amazon for $529 . This is a fairly large barrier to a smaller-scale beekeeper however with the increasing costs of package bees, a few uses that saves a few colonies pays for itself.

Phone Application Thermal Imaging

There are now a few options worth exploring when it comes to smartphone attachments that convert your iPhone or other smartphones into a thermal imaging device via a thermal imaging app, and my personal favorite is one made by Klien. This device works great with iOS (Apple) and is small enough and cost-effective enough, that if it assists you in keeping two hives alive, it was worth the money. Plus think of all the other stuff you could be scanning in your home for inefficiencies.

iPhone thermal imaging Apps

The Klein Tools TI222 Thermal Imager for iOS Devices

Has 10,800 pixels delivering excellent resolution to troubleshoot hot and cold spots. This Thermal Imager is perfect for detecting hot spots in panels, on wiring, or on parts of equipment; helping find sources of energy loss within a home/building; detecting moisture behind walls and flooring; clogs in pipes; and much more. Fits phone cases up to 1/16-Inch (1.5 mm). Phone cases thicker than 1/16-Inch (1.5 mm) may require removal of the case for a secure connection. Easily capture, store, and share thermal images and video through the Klein Tools Thermal Imager App, available for free in the App Store. Thermal Imager with 10,800 pixels to view hot and cold spots. Klein Tools Thermal Imager App is free in the App Store. Touchscreen temperature, high/low, and differential temperature. Includes high/low-temperature alarms to monitor systems. Compatible with iOS devices 11 and higher. Klein Tools Thermal Imager App is available for free in the App Store. Durable 6.6-Foot (2 m) drop test protection.

Uses of Thermal Imaging for Beekeeping

A thermal imaging device like the Kline TI222 isn't limited to winter hive scanning but can be used in swarm removal as well as detecting where in a wall, ceiling, etc a colony may be inhabiting for your cutouts. Not only will this make you look that much more professional, but it will likely help limit the damage done while cutting out those walls, ceilings, or whatever else the bees may have decided to take up residence in.

Final Thought

If you have several hives or offer cutouts of colonies and swarm removal, I personally think a thermal imaging device will pay for itself in its first use, so I think it is on the list of should haves as a timesaver, professional tool upping your persona, and let's face it...... it would be cool to scan all sorts of things in your house to measure the efficiency of your home, or how hot your significant others face gets, when you tell them how much you spent on it. Ha!

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