Using within-day hive weight changes to measure environmental effects on honey bee colonies

William G. Meikle*, Niels Holst, Théotime Colin, Milagra Weiss, Mark J. Carroll, Quinn S. McFrederick, Andrew B. Barron

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)
    49 Downloads (Pure)


    Patterns in within-day hive weight data from two independent datasets in Arizona and California were modeled using piecewise regression, and analyzed with respect to honey bee colony behavior and landscape effects. The regression analysis yielded information on the start and finish of a colony’s daily activity cycle, hive weight change at night, hive weight loss due to departing foragers and weight gain due to returning foragers. Assumptions about the meaning of the timing and size of the morning weight changes were tested in a third study by delaying the forager departure times from one to three hours using screen entrance gates. A regression of planned vs. observed departure delays showed that the initial hive weight loss around dawn was largely due to foragers. In a similar experiment in Australia, hive weight loss due to departing foragers in the morning was correlated with net bee traffic (difference between the number of departing bees and the number of arriving bees) and from those data the payload of the arriving bees was estimated to be 0.02 g. The piecewise regression approach was then used to analyze a fifth study involving hives with and without access to natural forage. The analysis showed that, during a commercial pollination event, hives with previous access to forage had a significantly higher rate of weight gain as the foragers returned in the afternoon, and, in the weeks after the pollination event, a significantly higher rate of weight loss in the morning, as foragers departed. This combination of continuous weight data and piecewise regression proved effective in detecting treatment differences in foraging activity that other methods failed to detect.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0197589
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    Number of pages21
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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