“Computer Programs for the Beekeeper”

Bee Culture (November 2003), Vol. 131 (11): 17-18




Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford



Periodically I am asked if there are any computer programs for beekeepers.  There are too many to fully review here.  They come in various flavors from the “killer application,” electronic mail, simply called “e-mail,” to stand-alone applications and those that can be accessed and used on the Internet through the World Wide Web.  I distribute my Apis newsletter via e-mail.1  A first place to look for electronic beekeeping information of any kind using the World Wide Web (a computer application of its own) is to access the Beehoo directory.2  There is a specific listing there for software that can be used in a number of ways and also is available in different languages.  French speakers will want to check out the program called Apilogic, version 5.02, developed by my good friend Gilles Ratia of Apiservices in southwest France.3  I will not review it here as it is only available in French,, but after only a little study even in a foreign language, the potential for use in a variety of situations from in-depth record keeping to statistical models is apparent.


The Beeaware program developed by Penn State University and the Maarec (Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium) continues to get better and better.4  "BeeAware is a CD-ROM packed with information on honey bee management, accompanied by hundreds of high-quality images and illustrations. Included on this CD is detailed information on honey bee biology, starting new colonies, beekeeping equipment, seasonal management, pollination, queen management, and detailed information on the identification and management of diseases, pests and parasites. Additional information includes the references used to make the system, a list of all apiary inspectors in the US and Canada, and a glossary of all the technical terms used in the system.  A unique feature of BeeAware is an interactive diagnostic module designed to assist beekeepers in identifying unknown problems in their colonies. This module was recently rebuilt using NetWeaver, an efficient knowledge base construction, maintenance, documentation, and debugging tool written at Penn State University."  The program is available for $50 sending a check or money order to: BeeAware, Dept.of Entomology, 501 ASI Building, University Park, PA 16802, phone 814-865-1896.

Mynista in Alberta, Canada has both a hobby (150 hives or less) and professional software application available.5    The software tracks queens, production, supplemental feeding and weather and notes.  "The Hive Test Results form is a list of the locations with the individual hives, showing tests done and the results of those tests. The table includes fields such as number of mites, percentage of infestation, and level of infestation. The filter helps narrow down the information by the location, hive, test done, results, or by date. Reports can also be printed from the table."  The company is also developing its "nomad" version, which can be used on hand held or so-called "palm" computers.  Trial versions are available via CD ROM or Web download that can be used prior to purchase.  The hobby version costs $95 and the professional one $286. 

The EDBI foundation has both tracking software (Bidata) and a pollen database available through its Web site.6  The tracking software is continually being updated (Version 6.0 is now available)  and there will soon be a version out for “palm” computers.  There is a lot of information on this Web site and it could take quite some time to download one or both programs.  For 10 Euros, it is recommended that one order the CD-ROM, which, includes a free 20 hive-edition plus a lot of other material, including the pollen database, more than 500 megabytes of information in total. The Bidata program is also available in several languages.

The Carl Hayden Tucson Bee Laboratory’s Web site (Gears) advertises several computer applications.  Certainly the price is right.  They are free.  VarroaPop simulates the growth of Varroa mite populations in honey bee colonies. The program demonstrates how Varroa mites influence colony population growth throughout the year. You can change many factors through the menus in the model such as the initial population size, queen egg laying potential, and mite reproduction rates, so you can see how these factors influence both colony and mite population growth. We hope that the model will help you understand the interactions between the honey bee and mite populations and provide insights on how best to control Varroa in colonies.” 

BK-Economics is a software package that was developed by a team of scientists at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona to assist commercial beekeepers in streamlining their business practices. This software allows beekeepers to simulate years of business, taking into account factors like equipment purchases, labor force, transportation, marketing strategies, loans, honey flow, and other hive products without taking the usual risks. This software, when used in combination with the marketing strategy information in publication, can help beekeepers formulate a successful business plan when making financial decisions, expanding an operation or just starting out.”  Both programs can be downloaded from the Web site or can be requested by mail. 

The specialized program Redapol is also available from the Tucson Web site.  It is a computer-based model simulating the interactions of weather, bloom and honey bee foraging activity that culminate in 'Delicious' apple fruit-set. The model predicts the percentage of blossoms setting fruit based upon weather conditions, orchard design, tree characteristics, and honey bee colonies per hectare.  Other applications are found at the Web site that can be used interactively with an Internet connection.  These include the “pollination bible,” last published in 1976 by S.E. McGregor, Insect Pollination of Cultivated Crop Plants.  This is the “first and only virtual beekeeping book updated continuously.”  Then there is Web Bee Pop that simulates how honey bee population dynamics depends on the weather.  Five different climatic regions can be selected.  Finally, the site provides a down and dirty look at the structure of bees as viewed through a scanning microscope, the electronic version of A Scanning Electron Microscope Atlas of the Honey Bee, by Eric Erickson and colleagues, reproduced with permission of the Iowa University Press.

I cannot end this short column on computer possibilities without mentioning my Apis Information Resource Center.9  Here one can sign up for a free beekeeping information and peruse information for sale both in English and Spanish in both HTML and HTML help formats.

As the digital age matures, there are bound to be more and more computer programs available to beekeepers.  Fortunately, it will not be difficult to find most of them using the power of the Internet and World Wide Web.



      1.    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Apis_Newsletter/

  1. http://www.beehoo.com/
  2. http://www.apiculture.com/apiservices/index_fr.htm
  3. http://maarec.cas.psu.edu/beeaware/index.html
  4. http://www.mynista.com/beekeeper/
  5. http://apimo.dk/index.htm
  6. http://gears.tucson.ars.ag.gov
  7. http://apis.shorturl.com