The Bee Forecast

It's now unmistakably autumn. A few weeks ago, we were inspecting on a sunny afternoon with the thermometer reading 24°C. Now, every day brings with it hours of rain. Inspecting is no longer a matter of turning up at the apiary when it happens to be convenient, but instead timing things so that the conditions are right. It seems as though the bees have no trouble with detecting when they should be out or in the hive, but we humans need to make use of weather forecasts.

Over the weekend, some friends from Bristol were thinking of coming to help me out with an inspection. Never one to pass up the opportunity to get friends hooked on beekeeping, I spent most of Sunday regularly looking at the sky, hoping that conditions would improve enough to open up the hives. Until about 2pm, it was tipping it down. Once the rain was over, the wind was up around 30km/h for the rest of the day. For a long time it was unclear whether the inspection could go ahead, and we eventually all agreed that it was best for the bees to be left alone.

Later that evening, I bashed up the code for a beekeeping forecast — an hour-by-hour forecast of the conditions affecting the suitability of an inspection over the following forty-eight hours, powered by Dark Sky's API. An inspection should only take place if it's sufficiently warm, dry, still, and of course during daylight hours, preferably when they are out foraging. Some beekeepers claim that a very cloudy day doesn't go down well with the bees, too, but I'm not so sure. Anyway, the forecast tests each of these conditions against desirable criteria, giving them traffic light colours depending on whether the conditions rule things out (red), look iffy (yellow) or are ideal (green). If all the criteria are met, the forecast assigns a score of one to five bees to rate the suitability of that hour-long slot. Of course, it's all reliant on the underlying forecast being accurate — the weather on the Somerset Levels has a tendency to deviate a bit from most forecasts — but it should be interesting to see if it works.

I am happy to set up a customised page for any other beekeeper who'd like one, for free. The customised forecast can specify your own conditions and criteria. Just drop me a line and let me know you'd like one.