Modelling daily weight variation in honey bee hives

PLoS Comput Biol. 2023 Mar 1;19(3):e1010880. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1010880. eCollection 2023 Mar.


A quantitative understanding of the dynamics of bee colonies is important to support global efforts to improve bee health and enhance pollination services. Traditional approaches focus either on theoretical models or data-centred statistical analyses. Here we argue that the combination of these two approaches is essential to obtain interpretable information on the state of bee colonies and show how this can be achieved in the case of time series of intra-day weight variation. We model how the foraging and food processing activities of bees affect global hive weight through a set of ordinary differential equations and show how to estimate the parameters of this model from measurements on a single day. Our analysis of 10 hives at different times shows that the estimation of crucial indicators of the health of honey bee colonies are statistically reliable and fall in ranges compatible with previously reported results. The crucial indicators, which include the amount of food collected (foraging success) and the number of active foragers, may be used to develop early warning indicators of colony failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Food*
  • Pollination
  • Time Factors
  • Urticaria*

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (Grant DP190101994 to TL, MM, EGA), the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (TC), and Eldon and Anne Foote Trust (TC). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.