Data is Power – and the Col Loss Survey Provides It
MANAGEMENT MATTERS BROUGHT TO YOU BY MyApiary
By Darren Bainbridge
As we know “knowledge is power” and data leads to knowledge. Certainly so in a beekeeping-sense and this month I want to elaborate on how data collection tools such as the New Zealand Colony Loss Survey (for beekeepers as a collective) and MyApiary (for individual beekeeping businesses) can provide that data, knowledge and power.
Knowledge can change the world, or a company, but only when it is shared in the right ways. Before knowledge or an idea can change the world, it first must change behaviour.
Over the last few months, I have been collaborating with Dr Pike Stahlmann-Brown, creator of our Col Loss Survey, to help MyApiary customer more easily and accurately answer the survey questions.
A few years ago, Pike came to see what we do at MyApiary. He was blown away with the data we help our clients record, how MyApiary helped turn that data into knowledge, and what questions it could be used to help answer.
This collaboration led to today’s outcome, where we have produced a report for each section of the Col Loss Survey that summarises data recorded over a 14-16 month period. MyApiary clients can use the report to answer the survey questions, while also applying their own interpretation of the data in accordance with their hive management strategy.
What struck me as quite profound is how Pike has laid out the survey, to first establish its primary focus – the number of “colony losses over winter” – and then dive deeper into trying to understand the possible causes or methods of prevention of these losses.
When testing the new report’s accuracy across a few data sets, it was very easy to see different management strategies at play. It painted a picture of who is regularly requeening and what percentage of their hives each year, who is still using bi-annual calendar varroa treatments and who has been monitoring varroa levels, experimenting with alternate treatment strategies, and comparing results season to season.
With data like this it became very clear to me how combining this data anonymised over a national scale could be used to help derive a best management practice for each region or evolution of varroa. As well as that, using your own data to try new ideas, measure the results and apply changes to your own management strategies. For this reason, I think the survey is a very useful tool for monitoring honey bee health on a national scale and I encourage everyone to complete it, after you get around your hives this spring.
For the outcomes, you’ll have to wait for Pike’s next report which is obviously some time off, or you could start applying data analysis to your own business.
As they say, “knowledge is power” and if we can use the outcomes of the survey, and data collection in general, to improve management practices and hive health for the better, what impact could it have on our honey industry?
So, if you complete the Col Loss Survey… more power to you!
Darren Bainbridge is the founder and general manager of MyApiary, a provider of beehive, apiary and honey house management software, as well as beekeeping business advisory and consultancy. www.myapiary.com