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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oh, Beehave

My sister and her intrepid friends (left) who made their first foray into beekeeping in Ohio last year will surely be intrigued by a new software program that's designed to help beekeepers and bee fans everywhere understand what makes a colony thrive, or fail. Called, yes, BEEHAVE, Pacific Standard reports that the software simulates a colony's whole life, "with models for the queen laying eggs, nurse bees attending to her brood, foragers collecting nectar and pollen, and allows users to throw in stressors like food shortages, mite infestations, pesticides, and diseases to see how their digital bees fare over time in different contexts." 

With bees, the world’s primary pollinators, used commercially to grow more than $200 billion worth of crops each year, a lot is riding on solving the mystery of why the bee population is in perilous decline. Field research is the most crucial tool, but programs like BEEHAVE  allow users "to test and analyse the effects of a variety of factors and interactions between them in a fast and cost-effective way.”

You can watch the entire lifespan of a honeybee colony play out in seconds, which is a lot easier than gathering data over years, not to mention actually doing the hard work of bee raising. My sister and her friends will start again this year, after last year's valiant but failed attempt. 

BEEHAVE's  researchers designed the program--free to download http://beehave-model.net/--so it can be updated, expanded, and user-friendly enough so that non-bee experts can explore the mysteries of what makes a hive thrive.  -- Barbara Bedway

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